Lakers vs. Nuggets Pre-Game Report: Unfinished Business in Denver

Are the Lakers really down three games to two against the Denver Nuggets heading into a Game 6? Sadly, yes. A 43-point effort by Kobe Bryant was not nearly enough for the Lakers to withstand a combined 45 points by Andre Miller and JaVale McGee. The league’s top shooting team averaged 104.1 points per game during the regular season, but have found themselves scoring just 95.4 in the playoffs. The output is just a half point less than the 95.9 that the Lakers allowed in the regular season, all this without Metta World Peace, who will sit out one more game.

The series shifts back to Denver for the final time, and hopefully the last game of the series for the Lakers, who already know that with a series victory they will have to travel to Oklahoma to face the second-seeded Thunder on Saturday, but could be forced to wait until Tuesday if they are defeated.

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
Lakers lead series 3-2

Game 6, First Round, Western Conference
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets
7:30 PM PST, May 10, 2012
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Nuggets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Ty Lawson – 15.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 6.0 apg
SG: Arron Afflalo – 9.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
SF: Danilo Gallinari – 14.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 apg
PF: Kenneth Faried – 10.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 0.6 apg
C: Timofey Mozgov – 3.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.2 apg

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

Fun Facts:

  • The Lakers lead the overall playoff series against the Nuggets by a margin of 20-6, winning their last contest in Denver.
  • Tonight will be the final game of a six-game suspension that Metta World Peace will be serving. He will be eligible to play in either Game 7 of this series, or Game 1 of the second round.
  • After not trailing in the first two games of the series, the Lakers never re-captured their lead after jumping out in front 2-0.

Keys to a Laker Victory:

Lakers Need to Stop McGee
How big was the acquisition of JaVale McGee for the Nuggets? The impending free agent is auditioning for his next team as he prepares to test the waters at the close of the season.

While still scoring 10.4 points per game in the playoffs (he scored 9.8 in the regular season), McGee can’t always be depended on. In the two games the Nuggets were victorious, JaVale scored 18.5 points, grabbing 14.5 rebounds.

But then there are the losses, where McGee scored 5.0 points and seemed ever-so-much to be a role player, and nothing special, also adding 6.3 rebounds.

Stopping McGee stops a spark that the bench generates from his output. Momentum is important especially on the road, where the Lakers have performed terribly throughout the season. A huge key to winning Game 6 will begin with halting JaVale.

Keep Limiting the Turnovers
In Game 6 the Lakers out-rebounded Denver 48-43, and out-passed the Nuggets 20-19, yet were outscored 102-99.

Another stat that stands out here are the seven steals the Nuggets piled up. Denver was second in the league with 9.71 steals per game, trouncing the Lakers and their 5.64, far and away the fewest in the league. The aggressiveness aids the Nuggets, who in turn convert easy points off of turnovers.

What the Lakers did well in Game 6 was take care of the ball, turning it over nine times, the fewest in the series, and watching Denver score just eight points off of the mistakes.

By limiting Denver’s fast break opportunities, the Lakers can continue to slow down the pace of the game, a tale the Nuggets clearly will dislike.

Utilize the Secret Weapon
Anytime a player scores 30+ points he is automatically accounted for, so what does 43 do for you? Kobe Bryant is averaging 31.2 points per game, but only 22.0 in Denver. In two games there he has attempted 17 three-pointers (converting on five), while taking 19 at home in three games.

Push comes to shove, the Lakers are likely to see Denver try and stop their superstar.

Enter Ramon Sessions.

He’s averaging 12.8 points per game, but is capable of taking over. Recall a game a little under a month ago against Dallas where Ramon was on fire, scoring 22 points, and shooting 60 percent from long distance.

One obstacle is cleared: Denver held him to just 6.5 points per game in two matchups during the regular season. He’s nearly doubled that. He must step it up to give the Lakers a better chance to pull a victory through, and advance to play Oklahoma on Saturday.

Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 99, Nuggets 93
Worst-Case: Nuggets 101, Lakers 97

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