Should the Denver Nuggets be favored against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 at the Staples Center?
Playing for the third time in six days is going to be a huge plus for Denver, who is littered with young guys filled with endless amounts of energy. Kobe Bryant was sick as a dog on Thursday, and exerted a ton of energy. His face told the story. Will he be 100 percent less than 48 hours later?
The Nuggets have two clear advantages that have been exploited beautifully in the last two games and there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again.
George Karl is one of only seven coaches in NBA history with 1,000 career wins. His head coaching career dates back to 1980—there is nothing he hasn’t seen on a basketball court.
If there was ever a coach to handle a team with the average age of the starting lineup being 24, it’s Karl. He has essentially brainwashed his team into thinking they are just as talented as the Lakers.
Down 3-1, he ensured his team didn’t collapse on the road and Karl has done a terrific job of juggling the lineup to put his players in a position to succeed.
There are plenty of fans who loathe the Ty Lawson-Andre Miller combination. Both are play-making point guards with similar games, the critics say. But when the two combine to dish out 70 assists and only 18 turnovers in this series, while chucking lob after lob to the bigs down low…how can you not like it?
In the words of Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, Karl has “stitched clown suits” around Lakers head honcho Mike Brown.
With all due respect for a coach who has a NBA Finals appearance on his resume, he is not a coach capable of winning a championship.
For the second time in his head coaching career, Brown is overshadowed by a superstar who has more power. First it was LeBron James in Cleveland, now it’s Kobe. Bryant dictates his own minutes, is the vocal one in huddles and is constantly barking commands that Brown may, or may not agree with.
Brown doesn’t have his respect, which means the rest of the team doesn’t either.
Did you catch the shot of Andrew Bynum on the end of the Laker bench pouting like a little kid while the rest of the team was in the huddle on Thursday?
Somebody needs to light a fire under him and Brown isn’t the man for the job.
Toss in a horrific ability to call effective plays out of a huddle and in the half-court set, and there is no doubt who the better coach is in this series.
In a Game 7, that matters—a lot.
2. The Bench
Al Harrington, Miller, Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee are all more than capable of starting in this league. They all bring something unique to the table and have meshed incredibly well with the starters in the last two games.
The bench has contributed 90 points in the last two games. The Lakers have gotten 46 over that same span, including five from Darius Miller in the end of Game 6’s blowout.
Denver knows they are much deeper, and as long as they keep the tempo at a high level, the Lakers are going to get winded. This is a three man team, no question about it.
Obviously Kobe isn’t going down quietly, but considering he has averaged over 31 points and the series is tied at three, the Nuggets can survive with “Bean” blowing up.
The key is forcing Bynum to check out early. He’s in an incredibly fragile mental state, and if he struggles from the get-go, this could be a repeat of the embarrassing series ending loss to the Mavericks last season. It’s all mental with him.
Minimizing Pau Gasol’s impact will be important as well, but it seems that his effort level simply isn’t there this series. He has averaged a mere 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds through six games. Gasol has been a complete afterthought and whatever the Nuggets are doing has clearly worked.
Sure, Metta World Peace is back. But how much can you expect from a guy who has been seen clubbing and going on Conan while sitting out the past two weeks? Rust is going to be a huge factor with World Peace.
The Nuggets are much younger, more athletic, deeper and have the better coach. Sure, the history books say the home team rarely loses in this position, but this situation is different.
Behind the brilliant point guard combo of Lawson and Miller, and the Nuggets’ post player’s ability to frustrate Bynum and limit Gasol, one of the greatest first round comebacks will be complete.
Prediction: Nuggets 101, Lakers 96