By Craig Kwasniewski
Whew! As series go, one chapter down and this feels like the makings of an epic series. The Lakers overcame their now typical lackluster start and some very questionable officiating to pull out a 105-103 victory over a very confident Denver Nuggets team in Los Angeles. Here are a few thoughts from my seat high up in Section 316 of Le Stade de Staples:
But I digress...
Denver blew their chances at blowing this game wide open by missing early freethrows and not riding Melo's hot hand for the rest of the first half. Clearly the Ariza/Walton tandem were being dominated by Melo, so why not play him most of the first half and grab a big halftime lead? (BTW - Luke Walton on Carmelo Anthony? REALLY???? Did Phil bet on Denver?) Anyway, George Karl needed to get a feel for the game and adjust his rotations accordingly.
The Lakers bench circa November finally showed up in the second quarter and rallied the Lakers back into the game. Early in the season, the Lakers earned the reputation of having one of the deeper teams in the NBA from the stellar and enegertic efforts of their bench in the 2nd and late 3rd quarters. Several times this year the Lakers starting 5 didn't open with the right energy and they relied on the bench to change the pace of the game, which happened again tonight.
The starting five showed up in the second half and the Laker rode a heroic effort by Kobe to steal the W.
Moving on to Game 2. A big if still falls on the Lakers. If the Lakers starters open with the same effort they did against Houston in game 7, they win easily on Thurdsay. The Nuggets feasted on weak opponents this postseason and have yet to ever show resilience when trailing. They know they lost a great chance at stealing game 1 and I'm curious how they bounce back. One thing I do know is that you won't get a game where Bynum, Gasol and Odom all don't show up offensively. I see a better effort from Gasol in game 2.
But if the Lakers follow their 2009 postseason pattern, they'll take Denver lightly and lose Game 2. And like everyone else familiar with these Lakers anything is possible...
Melo got the best of Kobe on this one. He was right in his face and forces Kobe to come up short.