I just got in off the lake, so bear with me.
The NBA playoffs are under way, and we’ve got two game 7’s this weekend between us and the 2nd round. One series I expected to go 7. The other, I did not. I’ve got to grill some steaks shortly, so let’s take a quick look at what to expect tonight and tomorrow.
Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers (9:30 Saturday, 10:30pm TNT)
The Lakers shouldn’t be here. Metta World Peace wasn’t that big of a loss that they should find themselves in a game 7 in the first round against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers have three players on their team better than anyone who plays for Denver. So what are we doing here? It’s complicated…
George Karl has done a great job of making the Lakers play to his team’s style. Denver has pushed the pace and made things uncomfortable for LA. Showtime is no more, so the Lakers can’t try to run with the younger, more athletic Nuggets. Their advantage is inside and they must re-establish that to have a chance tonight.
Pau Gasol must make his presence know. 3 points and 3 rebounds certainly won’t cut it again. He’s clearly had trouble adjusting to the emergence of Andrew Bynum and losing his touches in the process. The two big men have swapped roles this season and chemistry appears to have suffered.
Priority #1 for the Lakers must be to stop Ty Lawson. The speedy point guard has been torching LA all series long. There’s no one on their team who can guard him one-on-one, so Mike Brown has to develop a scheme to do it. If Lawson scores 32 again, the Lakers will be going home much earlier than expected.
Kobe Bryant was sick in game 6, but he still scored 31 points and the Lakers still lost by 17. Bryant isn’t the problem for this team, but he’s not good enough to carry them by himself. He must get help from his big mean, and after Thursday’s game he let them know that.
Denver returns to LA with a chance to shock a lot of people, including Andrew Bynum who told the media after game 4 that close out games were “kind of easy.” Those words have rejuvenated the Nuggets and now they believe they can pull this thing off. They have enough big men to throw at Bynum and Gasol and if Lawson can continue his stellar play, their odds of advancing look very good.
Prediction: Nuggets 96 Lakers 100
Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies (1:00 Sunday, ABC)
This one I was expecting. However, the path we took to get here was not. The game 1 collapse put the Grizzlies behind the 8-ball this entire series. The Clippers took their stolen win and raced out to a 3-1 lead after returning home. But Memphis didn’t give up and fought back to give us a 7th game.
The Grizzlies appear to have the advantage coming into this game as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both banged up, but they barely won game 6 despite just 24 combined points between the LA superstars. The Clippers forced 20 Memphis turnovers while committing just 7 of their own, giving them something to build on despite their ailing players.
The Grizzlies did get some encouragement in game 6 as Zach Randolph finally delivered the kind of game his team had been waiting for. The Clippers have no answer for he and Marc Gasol when they are both playing well, especially with Blake Griffin favoring his knee. DeAndre Jordan is a capable defender, but Griffin simply can’t cover either one of these guys. Memphis must get the ball down low early and often to exploit their advantage in the paint.
If Chris Paul still isn’t himself I just can’t see this game being close. Memphis has all of the momentum right now and I expect them to use it.
Prediction: Clippers 85 Grizzlies 98
Miami and Indiana kick off round 2 at 3:30 tomorrow. These series are only going to get more exciting. See you soon!