Nuggets at Lakers, Game 7
The Lakers need to get a grip. Now.
On one hand, I’m not worried because I’ve seen this sad act before. The last time the Lakers won an NBA title, the Houston Rockets took them to seven games in the first-round series, which was in no way indicative of what was to come in the rest of the playoffs.
We all know the Lakers are superior to the Nuggets, it’s just a matter of which team decides to show up Saturday for Game 7.
Will it be the Lakers team that had six players score in double figures? Or will it be the team in which a sickly Kobe Bryant carried nearly the whole load while two 7-footers were practically invisible?
Will LA continue to be stifled by a blistering Nuggets defense that left Pau Gasol with an empty stat sheet after going a pathetic 1-10 from the field in Game 6? Will Andrew Bynum continue to regress to middle school behavior by bragging without pause and sitting alone at the end of the bench like a boy whose lunch money got stolen?
If each team plays to its potential, there is no doubt that the Lakers will easily beat the Nuggets in Game 7. Denver is too inconsistent and too weak from long range to beat a team with players in the post such as Gasol and Bynum with Kobe waiting in the wings.
We will see what Gasol and Bynum are really made of Saturday as a Game 7 is the perfect opportunity to expose a player’s mental fortitude.
Look for an extra boost of energy from Metta World Peace who will return from a seven game suspension to emotionally inspire the Lakers to reach their physical potential on Saturday. As lovely a Cinderella story as Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller and Corey Brewer have written, I think Denver’s glass slipper finally breaks come Saturday.
Clippers at Grizzlies, Game 7
This could very well be the end of the road for the Clippers. Sure, the 27-point comeback was incredible, as was jumping out to a 3-1 series lead, but L.A.’s injuries will likely do them in against the Grizzlies in Memphis on Sunday.
The last thing on the Grizzlie’s minds is the Game 1 loss to the Clippers after Memphis has not only beat L.A. twice in Staples Center, but has watched L.A’s two stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, break down over the course of the series and the Grizz smell blood in the water.
Without Paul and Griffin at a good 70% in terms of health, it will be awfully hard for the Clippers to beat this Grizzlies team - which many thought would be a wild card winner to come out of the West - in Memphis in a decisive Game 7.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph finally figured out how to work the Clippers in Game 6 and with help from Rudy Gay and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies had just enough to get the win in L.A.
The edge in Game 7 has to go to the Grizzlies because of the team’s playoff experience last year, the injuries ailing the Clippers two star players and of course, home court advantage.
Sleepy Spurs & Thunder?
The long layoff between the first round of the playoffs and the conference semi-finals can’t be long enough for the San Antonio Spurs, who are “old,” but perhaps not as old as you might think. The average age of a Spurs player is 27.29 years old, compared to the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose average age is 25.8.
Greg Popovich’s decision to rest some of the team’s older players like Tim Duncan is in part, what earned him NBA Coach of the Year honors as sitting the more “mature” men on the team for a game here and there certainly paid off in the long run.
The younger Thunder, whose stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both 23 years old, might have a slightly tougher time adjusting to the long lay off, but I’m sure will be right back up to speed after one game, maximum.
In the short term, the long break between OKC’s first and second round series could cause some rust, but it will definitely be helpful in the long run as whichever team comes out of the West will have taken the much tougher road to the Finals.
Celtics & Heat In The East
Barring catastrophic injury (a la the Chicago Bulls) the Celtics and Heat should meet up for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown in a few weeks from now.
I give Paul Pierce one obligatory wheelchair ride and Ray Allen six missed periods with a bum ankle and still have the Celtics beating the 76ers for an eventual date with the Heat.
As much as I love the young-buck Pacers, they have no shot against Miami unless two of the Big Three go down with major injuries.
That said, does the old Big Three actually stand a chance against the young Big Three?
Ehhh…no. I could see the Celtics taking Miami to six games, but that’s probably as far as it goes. By the time the Conference Finals roll around, the Heat should be drooling for the sweet taste of revenge after last year’s embarrassing Finals loss and willing to pounce on whomever stands in their way of getting there.
With a weak Eastern Conference and a tough, tough road for whomever comes out of the West, this truly is the Heat’s year to win an NBA Championship. Again, barring injury, the Celtics CANNOT beat the Heat in a 7-game series. All that the team coming out of the West can hope for is that the guys in green put up one hell of a fight.