2012 NBA Playoffs: Why the LA Lakers Will Rout Denver Nuggets

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2012 NBA Playoffs: Why the LA Lakers Will Rout Denver Nuggets
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The Lakers' acquisition of Ramon Sessions introduces an entirely new dynamic to the team: a point guard that can penetrate to the basket and consequently set up teammates for open shots they are not accustomed to seeing.  

March 16, 2012 was "Ramon Sessions emancipation day," as for the first time in his career he is playing with a contending, quality team and can play his natural game. The transformation from his first 41 games with Cleveland to his last 23 with Los Angeles is startling. His minutes per game jumped from 24.5 to 30.5 and his shooting percentage rose (from 39.8 percent to 47.9 percent), as did his three-point shooting. His rebounds and assists per game reached career highs.

Most strikingly, he has returned to his slashing-to-the-basket style.  With Cleveland only 32.6 percent of his shots were at the rim (2.8 of 8.6), but that has soared to 41.1 percent with the Lakers (3.7 of 9.0)

To put that into perspective, as much as I respect Derek Fisher's achievements over the years since 2008, he has never attained even a 17 percent "at the rim" shot selection, and this year with the Lakers Fisher was under 13 percent. Clearly Sessions and Fisher are different types of players.

The NBA got a glimpse of the Sessions implications in the three-game Lakers winning stretch from April 1 to April 4. Kobe Bryant shot a startling 62 percent from the field, going 39 of 63 while Pau Gasol shot 57 percent on 27 of 47 shooting.

In the April 4th game, Andrew Bynum went 13 for 20. I attribute those performances to the 28 assists Sessions generated in those three games.

The Lakers beat the Nuggets 103-97 in an April 13th game that Kobe Bryant missed. Sessions did not play his best game, shooting only one of seven, but his six assists led the team, and Bynum shot 11 for 19 while Matt Barnes added 9 of 11 shooting. In fact, the Lakers were plus-10 in Sessions' 31 minutes of playing time.

The most fascinating part of the Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers matchup is what role newly-acquired Nuggets' center JaVale McGee will play. He has been used sparingly in Denver, only 20.6 minutes per game, after playing more than 27 minutes per game the past two years for Washington. McGee is an excellent shot-blocker that could deter Sessions' drives to the bucket.

I look for Denver to turn to McGee too late in the series to make a difference; this series will be over in at most five games. 

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