NBA Playoffs 2012: Lakers Will Continue to Impose Their Will on Nuggets
They started things off in impressive fashion in Game 1 of the seven-game series. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum led the way for the Lakers, while role players Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill and Steve Blake chipped in admirably when they had their chances.
Don't forget about Pau Gasol. He quietly added a near triple-double, falling short by two assists and two rebounds.
The surprise performance of the first game for the Lakers comes from one of the men taking over for World Peace: Devin Ebanks only played 19 minutes in the game, but he came away with 12 points and five rebounds to make the most of his time.
Bryant is coming off of an extended absence and was clearly rusty, shooting 45 percent from the floor on 11-of-24 shooting. He started the game out by hitting only one of six shots.
I've already touched on the fact that World Peace isn't available to play due to his seven-game suspension. His backup, Matt Barnes, is also not playing at 100 percent due to a sore ankle—which is why Ebanks played as much as he did.
Bynum showed the nation what he's capable of doing by posting a triple-double the hard way—scoring 10 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and blocking 10 shots. He's just starting to tap into his true potential, and I expect him to continue playing well during the postseason.
The Lakers aren't even close to playing at full strength, yet they completely annihilated the Nuggets in Game 1.
I predicted that the Lakers would win the series in five games. It's looking like I may have miscalculated how unprepared the Nuggets would be for the playoff atmosphere.
They were unable to compete with the intensity and physicality of the Lakers' frontcourt, and floor general Ty Lawson looked incapable of hitting an outside shot if his life depended on it.
I do expect the Nuggets to find their composure on their home court, and they should be able to pull out one win, but they are not going to win more than one.
Will the Lakers sweep the Nuggets?
The Lakers are just better than them. And it's not even close.
The scary thing from the perspective of the Nuggets has to be this: The Lakers didn't even play their best basketball.
Look for Bryant's shooting numbers to improve as he gets back into the flow of things. He loves the playoff atmosphere and is one of the truly great competitors the NBA has ever seen.
The Lakers have a good chance to get back to the Western Conference Finals. They are starting to play well at the right time, and this series against the Nuggets is just what the doctor ordered as a tuneup for their next test.
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