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The Lakers big 3 of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum are coming up big in the early stages of the playoffs, but the reserve players such as Devin Ebanks (above) and Jordan Hill are contributing at a much higher level, which could make a major difference for the Lakers. Photo by Jeff LewisBy Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Disclaimer 1: The Lakers are only two games into the playoffs.
Disclaimer 2: The Lakers are playing the Denver Nuggets.
Statement: The Lakers are looking like championship contenders.
Disclaimer 3: See disclaimers 1 & 2.
Now that that’s out of the way, through two games the Lakers have taken care of business, and tonight they have a chance to take a commanding lead over the Nuggets. If this team is really a contender then at worse they’ll come back to Los Angeles with a 3-1 series lead.
The Nuggets may end up being a good tune up for a Lakers series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are rolling right through the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Like the Thunder, the Nuggets are a young and athletic team who can get up and down the court. The Nuggets finished the regular season with the No. 1 scoring offense and they led the league in assists.
The Nuggets averaged 104 points per game during the regular season, but through two games the Lakers are holding them to only 94 points per game.
It has always been said that the NBA playoffs is all about the half court game, and that is favoring the Lakers big time. In Game 1, when the Lakers limited the Nuggets to only 19 fast break points, the Nuggets were held to 88 points in that game.
A major reason why the Nuggets are struggling offensively is because they do not have any size what so ever in the frontcourt to match up with the Lakers bigs. Lakers center Andrew Bynum is pretty much having his way near the basket on both ends of the court, and after his 10-block performance in Game 1, the Nuggets are not attacking the low post in the half court offense.
The Nuggets were able to get to 100 points in their Game 2 loss, mainly because they were able to generate offense with fast breaks. In that game they scored 30 points in transition, but in the half court offense they continued to struggle.
The Lakers bench, which was horrible for most of the season, has been able to contribute to a much higher degree in this series, and it seemed like head coach Mike Brown decided to rely on them more later in the season.
Lakers small forward Devin Ebanks was horrible early in the season, and Brown buried him on the bench. But late in the season Ebanks was able to get on the court and he played well.
Lakers power forward Jordan Hill seemed like he was a forgotten man, but since being inserted into the rotation he has brought rebounding and defensive intensity. Coming off the bench, he has grabbed 10 rebounds in both playoff games against the Nuggets.
With the Lakers big 3 playing well, if they continue to get support from the role players, then this team can go far.
But lets be real, they are only playing the Nuggets, and both of the first two games have been at home. If the Lakers do take care of business and move on to the second round, the Thunder will give the Lakers fits.
The Thunder and Nuggets are similar teams in that they are young and athletic, but the Thunder have star power, which the Nuggets do not, and the Thunder will have some type of low post presence. The Thunder’s strength is not down low, but they are not going to be nearly as bad as the Nuggets.
If the Lakers have any chance of making it to the Western Conference Finals, they will have to slow the games against the Thunder down to a snails pace, because if the Thunder get to running, it will not be good for the Lakers.
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