Honestly, I thought the Los Angeles Lakers would go into the series against Denver and win 4-0 or 4-1, then go on to get eliminated by either Dallas or Oklahoma City in Round 2.
Younger teams with the right mix of coaching and veteran players do not necessarily need star power to win games and hang close with the so-called best teams. In addition, there is much more to being a successful team than just having a Kobe Bryant on the roster (although it would be nice), or a trio of All-Star-caliber talents.
So, I have compiled a short list of things that have to happen for Denver to "shock" the world and knock off the heavily-favored Lakers in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series this Saturday.
In Games 1 and 2, the Lakers dominated the first quarter. Then they held on the entire game and won, despite relentless effort from a pesky Denver team.
Denver followed a similar pattern and won Game 3.
In Game 4, Denver controlled the first half. They lost mainly because the Lakers' playoff experience and team chemistry kicked in during the second half, which allowed them to outplay their younger, less experienced opponent.
Then the Nuggets did something I really liked in the next two games.
They not only shot the ball well and outplayed L.A., but they let Kobe play his game and focused their attention on effectively limiting everybody else. The Lakers, as a result, have started to look worn out.
Plus, other players stepped up when the Nuggets needed them too, especially playoff-newcomer JaVale McGee.
My point is this: If Denver starts Game 7 off strong and prevents the Lakers from getting into rhythm, they can win.
If the Lakers start off like they did in Games 1 and 2, the Nuggets are not in trouble per se.
What they have to do is not get flustered and play smart basketball for the remainder of the game. Ideally, they have to outscore L.A. in three quarters. Then, be better prepared for another potential Kobe scoring barrage.
George Karl and Jerry Sloan are my favorite NBA coaches. I have always wanted to see both of them win at least one championship before retiring.
In the past, Karl has led the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) to the Conference Finals and NBA Finals.
The Karl-led Milwaukee Bucks were a momentum swinging 89-88 Game 5-loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 Eastern Conference finals away from playing in the NBA Finals against a Lakers team they had beaten twice in the regular season.
Now he is coaching a Nuggets team that, outside of an appearance in the Western Conference finals in 2009, cannot seem to advance pass the first round.
His experience as a coach is really beneficial to a young Nuggets team.
Karl also has great team-leaders in Andre Miller and Arron Afflalo. Both of Miller and Afflalo led Utah and UCLA, respectively, to NCAA championship games and Final Four appearances. So they know what it takes to be championship-caliber team.
The Lakers have a great leader themselves in Kobe Bryant, but trading Derek Fisher and the retirement of Phil Jackson hurt the team greatly. It is also quite obvious most of L.A.'s players do not buy into Mike Brown's coaching style.
Even if the Lakers win Game 7, they will not remain in the playoffs long.
Corey Brewer has been mostly quiet for the entire series, but in Game 6 he made his presence known with 18 key points.
JaVale McGee, who, as stated earlier, is new to being involved in the playoffs, stepped up in Games 3 and 5, both of which were victories. He a combined 37 points and 29 rebounds in those games.
Andre Miller was hot in Game 5, leading the team in points with 24. Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari have provided scoring when needed in other games. Rookie Kenneth Faried has provided scoring and rebounding.
Then there is Ty Lawson.
He struggled in Games 1, 4 and 5. He was the little engine that was doing all he could in Games 2 and 3. Lastly, there was Lawson's 32-point performance from last night.
Denver has weapons to win. They are also playing as more of a unit than the Lakers.
Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and Matt Barnes are simply not getting it done off the bench. The L.A. starting five, outside of Kobe and sometimes Andrew Bynum, are not playing well.
Unless the Lakers suddenly pull together in Game 7, they will be eliminated.
The Nuggets have shown they can rebound.
Although L.A. is struggling, Denver now needs to focus on shooting the ball well and making their free throws. A survival game being played on their home court means the Lakers will be playing at their best.
If Denver does not hit their shots and make free throws at crucial points in the game, you give the Lakers a chance to either make a strong come back if they are down, or the chance to pull away and end Denver's chances of winning.