Nuggets-Lakers Preview

Noah CrouseContributor IMay 19, 2009

DENVER - MAY 13:  A member of the Denver Nuggets dance team performs as the Nugget face the Dallas Mavericks in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 13, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 124-110 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The time is here, the time is now, ring the bell, let the battle begin!

Nuggets versus Lakers Game One tonight. Call it whatever you want, a clash of the titans, a battle of epic proportions, but make no mistake, it is a showdown between the two best teams in the Western Conference.

It is what we here in Denver wanted, a chance to revenge losses of the past, as in last year, and a chance to prove that this Nuggets team is different.

As Ric Flair once said, to be the man, you have to beat the man. Well with a chance to go to the NBA Finals on the line, the Nuggets should not want any other matchup. They have to play the best in order to earn the opportunity to play for a Title.

Houston would have been a great matchup for Denver, but it would have been different. Nothing against Houston but they are not the Lakers. They are not the team considered and crowned by many to be the best team in the league. The Lakers are, and if they Nuggets want to fully succeed, they have to knock the Lakers off their throne.

In no way will this be an easy matchup for Denver. One major concern is that Los Angeles can roll out two seven footers in their starting lineup. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are gigantic and could cause problems on both ends of the floor for Kenyon Martin (6'9) and Nene (6'10).

Also, LA brings Sahsa Vujacic (6'7), Lamar Odom (6'10) and Luke Walton (6'8) off the bench. Those key reserves could cause serious issues for main Nuggets reserves Anthony Carter (6'2) and JR Smith (6'6). The only big man Denver can bring in to counter that size is Chris "Birdman" Andersen (6'10). Although it is unlikely that they will see any time because they have not thus far in the playoffs, Denver can bring in Linus Kleiza (6'8) and Renaldo Balkman (6'8) to try and create a better matchup.

So who wins the series?

If Denver can play the smothering physical defense they played against New Orleans (because it slipped against Dallas) then they stand a good chance of winning. But that is not all.

Denver can score the ball easily from the back court and guys like Melo, Chauncey, and JR are going to get their points. What they have to do is get Nene involved early and often. He is more physical than Gasol or Bynum, and if he has big nights (15-20 points, eight-12 rebounds) every night then Denver wins this series.  This will be a very good and long series. Six to seven games should not surprise anyone.