NBA Playoffs 2012 : 6 Keys for the Denver Nuggets to Winning Game 7

Daniel DonovanContributor IIIMay 11, 2012

NBA Playoffs 2012 : 6 Keys for the Denver Nuggets to Winning Game 7

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    In the end, the Nuggets have made a valiant move to even the series and force a Game 7. They rallied after losing at home in Game 4 to put themselves in this position.

    Whether they win or lose, this has been a great series. But if they follow these keys, the can hopefully catapult themselves into the second round and face the Oklahoma City Thunder, providing Masai Ujiri, Josh Kroenke and the rest of the front office some satisfaction in their "no superstar" building plan.

    Here's saying they knock out the Lakers. Then they can start worrying about Durant, Westbrook and company.

Put the Pedal to the Metal

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    These two teams could not be built more differently. With two proven stars and a third aging but effective, the Los Angeles Lakers have always felt comfortable in the half court offense—and why not?

    They have arguably the best closer in the game, possess mammoth length in the paint and have wily veterans that know how to gain position and make tough shots to slow down the action and create mismatches.

    The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, are built to fly. Speedy young players at almost every position, no heralded, unquestioned star (Ty's not there yet), a plethora of lineup looks to throw at you and a push it up the floor, run-and-gun mentality.

    As has been shown in the last two games (and the whole season), when the Nuggets play fast for 48 minutes, they tend to be one of the more difficult teams to beat. They have several players that struggle in the halfcourt, but flourish on the run, like McGee, Faried and, of course, Lawson. And they have two point guards that know how to push the pace with Lawson's flat-out speed and Miller's incredible down-court vision.

    The only way the Nuggets have a chance to win this game is to play their game. If they get caught in a crawling, halfcourt matchup, they can pack up their lockers and call it a season. They must keep up a fast pace to run the Lakers out of their own building.  

Keep Gasol out of the His Game

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    Kobe will get his points, Bynum will get his rebounds, but the key to ball movement in the Lakers' offense is the big Spaniard at power forward. 

    Gasol is the best passer on the team and, despite his play slowly diminishing over the last few years, he has shown that when it comes to ensuring the right people get the ball, Gasol has accommodated.

    The last two games, the Nuggets have harassed Gasol throughout the contest and his numbers have suffered. He is shooting a measly 5-21 from the field and has only managed two assists after averaging over five in the first four games.

    With point guard as their most glaring weakness, the ball feeds through Bryant and Gasol. Since you can't stop Bryant consistently, slow down Gasol and take away the second playmaker in their offense. Without consistent ball movement, even the best of halfcourt teams falter.

McGee vs. Bynum

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    Andrew Bynum has really blossomed as a player over the last few years, making Jim Buss look like a genius for refusing to trade the project in any Dwight Howard deals. 

    JaVale McGee had a pedestrian Game 6 by any standards with only five points and five rebounds to go with just one block, as he was often in foul trouble throughout the game. 

    However, in Game 7 this matchup will be key. McGee is the best option at center that the Nuggets can put on the floor, and he has to be stellar in sticking with Bynum in the series finale.

    If this series has taught us anything it is that Bynum may be more important to a victorious Lakers unit than Kobe. Therefore, when McGee is in the game he must attack Bynum on both ends of the court and prevent any string of gimme buckets for which the Lakers' center generally builds his solid games on.

    If McGee and the other Nuggets' centers can harass Bynum into a poor shooting game, then they have a good chance of keeping the Lakers out of the second round.

George Karl

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    Karl has shown resilience and rejuvenation that last few games, as many people had the Nuggets dead-to-rights after they let Game 4 slip through their fingers. With his public criticism of Lawson after the game, he insisted that the Nuggets must run and Lawson must lead them down that path. 

    Since then Lawson has responded beautifully. 

    The key here will be the matchups and substitutions that Karl can meander throughout the game, countering Mike Brown at every turn and using the incredible depth the Nuggets possess to their advantage against an older Lakers team.

    Once again, the tempo of this game is not only controlled by the floor generals, but by the coaches as well. Appropriate use of timeouts and the aforementioned chess match of substitutions can be the difference in a huge game such as this one. 

    Karl often abandons consistency throughout the year with the minutes he dishes out, sometimes to perplexing irregularities. But in this game he needs to be able to keep the action flowing the Nuggets' way, while ensuring that his regulars maintain their stamina and mentality for the home stretch in such an important finale.

    Many of the regulars have not played in a game this big, so it will be important for Karl to help the maturation process. It's time for George to shake the usual one-and-done playoff record he's had since arriving in Denver.

The Crowd

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    Despite the lavish and chic crowd that includes a multitude of A-list celebrities such as Penny Marshall, Denzel Washington and Jack Nicholson being counted among the season ticket holders, most Lakers fans abandon the distinguished Hollywood montage and flat out get rowdy.

    The crowds that have been pouring to the Staples Center for over a decade have seen an abundance of success that includes five rings since the arena opened in 1999. Becoming accustomed to such a plethora of accomplishments draws high expectations and breeds fanaticism. 

    The Nuggets must take the crowd out of this one early by playing their pace, but by also not reverting to the pattern this year of building huge leads, only to squander them as the game went on. If the Nuggets can jump out to an early lead, they need to hold and keep the thousands in the Staples Center in their chairs.

    If you can't control the crowd, then the Lakers can rally behind the mood and possibly run the Nuggets out of the building. Controlling the crowd will be a huge key to this victory.

Keep the Ball out of Kobe's Hands in the End

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    Bryant has been nothing short of incredible in this series from start to finish. The "Black Mamba" has hit his typical playoff stride, averaging over 30 points per game, leading the NBA playoffs.

    Although as stated earlier, shutting down Kobe does not frequently happen and barring a severe illness or an injury, Kobe will get his points.

    The key to slowing down Kobe is keeping the ball out of his hands late in the game. 

    We all know what Kobe has done over the years, which earned him his quick strike nickname. Of course the Nuggets are aware of his reputation as well.

    This means that if the game is indeed close down the stretch, the Nuggets must keep the ball out of Kobe's hands. He is arguably the best one-on-one player in the NBA, extremely gifted at drawing whistles and accustomed to knocking down the huge shots—but all of this can only happen if he has the ball in his hands.

    Steve Blake's unlikely dominance of the fourth quarter of Game 4 showed that other players are capable of stepping up. Heck, Robert Horry made an entire career of hitting big shots. That doesn't mean that the Nuggets should be leery of unlikely heroes.

    Despite the possibility of late Steve Blake heroics, I think the Nuggets would rather gamble with someone like Blake or Ramon Sessions than allow Bryant to take his chances. The "Black Mamba" rarely misses in crunch time. Keep the ball out of his hands. 

Oklahoma City?

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    In the end, the Nuggets have made a valiant move to even the series and force a Game 7. They rallied after losing at home in Game 4 to put themselves in this position.

    Whether they win or lose, this has been a great series. But if they follow these keys, the can hopefully catapult themselves into the second round and face the Oklahoma City Thunder, providing Masai Ujiri, Josh Kroenke and the rest of the front office some satisfaction in their "no superstar" building plan.

    Here's saying they knock out the Lakers. Then they can start worrying about Durant, Westbrook and company.