I don’t buy that the Los Angeles Lakers are struggling. They may be vulnerable yes, but that certainly isn’t anything new. No disrespect to San Antonio, but these are still the defending two time champions with the most proven all-star duo in the league. And for my money still the most difficult team to face in a seven game series.
If the Lakers have slipped at all, it’s probably due to miniscule cracks in their foundation of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Kobe’s averaging his fewest points and shot attempts in seven years, but continues with his trademark intensity and leadership as the game’s best winner. Pau Gasol is again contributing all around production at a high level, but occasionally gets passive and flustered in clutch situations. Andrew Bynum’s return has been strong, but stuttered by injury and yet another adjustment for the Laker bench after losing Matt Barnes.
The Laker defense is what makes them dangerous. They try to defend without fouling and run teams off the threes. When the pace gets out of control, they can be prone to giving up too many steals and offensive rebounds. In a frenzied offensive showdown they can be knocked off their normally steady half-court composure.
If Denver can muster enough pride to defend, they have the weapons. Ty Lawson should get whatever he wants against Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. Against San Antonio Melo let Richard Jefferson force him into awful shot selection all night. If that doesn’t change against Artest this won’t be close. Because Denver looks like and acts like a good team at home, they have a great chance against a team they’ve had a vendetta against the past few years.
Update: In preparation for tonight’s game check out this Q & A between Jeremy and Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles.