Lakers vs. Nuggets Pre-Game Report: Win or Go Home

Game 6 was a game the Laker fans and the team want to forget ever happened. Besides Kobe Bryant, the team’s lack of effort and urgency that was displayed on the court from the opening-tip on Thursday night was enormously disappointing. The Lakers have blown two consecutive opportunities to clinch the series and the body language of the players has been troubling in both of these potential close-out situations. With all that said, the Lakers have to forget about the last two games and focus on Game 7 and eliminating the Denver Nuggets. Tonight will mark the return of Metta World Peace, after serving his seven-game suspension that has kept him out of the playoffs so far. World Peace’s energy and intensity have been missed and the Lakers are hoping to feed off of his passion and defense.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory

Limit Ty Lawson’s Role –
Ty Lawson has been the spark for the Nuggets that provided the momentum necessary for the Nuggets to win Games 3, 5, and 6. While the entire Nuggets team excels at transition offense and fast-break opportunities, it is Lawson who anchors the team in these areas.

If the Lakers are able to limit Lawson from creating easy plays for his teammates, the Lakers will then be able to set their defense and gain more control of the pace of the game. Defense will be key in this game, as it has been for the entire series. Lawson has the ability to penetrate and create spacing on the floor, which of course confuses the defense and leads to open shots.

The Nuggets and Lawson performed this almost to perfection in Game 6, which led to a victory. The Lakers will most likely be unable to completely stop Lawson from his game, but if they limit his ability to create easy shots for him and his teammates and from getting out on the break, they will have done their job.

The Lakers’ Frontcourt Must Show Up –
The effort shown by Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol was dismal and simply embarrassing in Game 6. Bynum posted a deceptive double-double, yet played as if he didn’t care. Gasol struggled on Thursday, shooting 1- 10 from the field and earning just three points and three rebounds. As stated above, everyone but Bryant failed to show up in Game 6, but it was the lackluster performance by the frontcourt that was most noticeable.

The most disappointing fact is that everyone knows what type of incredible talent and abilities that Bynum and Gasol have. The Lakers’ frontcourt is mostly considered the strongest in the league. Expect to see Bynum and Gasol play with more energy and intensity now that they have been called out. The return of Metta World Peace and the attitude that he brings to the court will hopefully motivate  Bynum and Gasol to step up. After all, the vast consensus is that they should be dominating Denver’s frontcourt, especially on the glass.

Spread the Floor –
Kobe Bryant has had two remarkable games in Game 5 and 6, especially considering he had the flu on Thursday. Bryant tried to get his teammates involved in Game 6, but they were simply not converting. Ramon Sessions has put up a solid scoring average during this series, but that is not what is absolutely needed from him at this point. Sessions needs to focus on spreading the floor and look for easy opportunities for his teammates. Essentially, he needs to direct the offense and make it run smoothly for all 48 minutes.

When you spread the floor, all five guys become involved and they all become a threat to shoot. This will help the Lakers who are struggling in double teams, especially Andrew Bynum, against Denver. Therefore, the offensive rhythm becomes easier to continue for the entire game.

Start and Finish Strong –
Especially in the last two games, the Nuggets have come out of the gate strong and have been able to finish strong. Meanwhile, the Lakers have struggled to match the Nuggets in this way, primarily with how they start. The biggest reason for this has to do with the effort, energy and attitude that both teams chose to start and end with. Look for the Lakers to change this and try to replicate how they started and ended in Game 1. The Lakers’ backs are against the wall and desperation mode with be in full swing. If the Lakers have the right attitude in Game 7 and fight with energy and passion, then the chances of winning and not going home will become a reality.

Series Results
Game 1: Nuggets 88 @ Lakers 103
Game 2: Nuggets 100 @ Lakers 104
Game 3: Lakers 84 @ Nuggets 99
Game 4: Lakers 92 @ Nuggets 88
Game 5: Nuggets 102 @ Lakers 99
Game 6: Lakers 96 @ Nuggets 113
Series tied 3-3

Game 7, First Round, Western Conference
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers
7:30 PM PST, May 12, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: FS West, TNT
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Nuggets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves: G Andre Miller, F Corey Brewer, PF Al Harrington, C JaVale McGee

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