NBA Playoffs 2012: Lakers Will Continue to Impose Their Will on Nuggets

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IApril 30, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers blocks a shot by Andre Miller #24 of the Denver Nuggets during the first half in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. 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 Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

No Metta World Peace? No problem. The Los Angeles Lakers are going to blow out the Denver Nuggets on their way to the second round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

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.

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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.

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.