Friday, May 22, 2009
With around 3 minutes left in the first half of Game 2, I was committed to the Lakers winning the series in 5 games. Denver had their best chance of stealing home court in Game 1 but blew it. Now they were down 13 nearing halftime in Game 2. But then Carmelo Anthony showed why he's one of the least talked about star players.
Denver went on a 14-2 run to close the first half and went into the locker room down just one point. Denver's final bucket of the half epitomized this LA Lakers team. Chauncey Billups was inbounding the ball under Denver's basket when he caught Kobe Bryant off guard with his back to the ball. Billups in bounded the ball off Kobe's back to himself for an easy layup.
The Lakers turned their backs on the Nuggets at the end of the half and know will have to win a game in Denver to survive this series.
After two games in LA, it's the Nuggets who look like the superior team. Denver is more physical, more aggressive. They're driving the ball to the basket, they're playing exceptional defense. Denver's front line is killing LA's.
Kenyon Martin is looking like he's back dominating college ball like he did at Cincinnati.
For the last year we've heard how Andrew Bynum was the missing piece of the puzzle. In two games, Bynum has 15 points and 8 rebounds. He's disappeared in the second half. Pau Gasol may be grabbing rebounds, but like we saw against Boston last year, he seems too intimidated to take it to the rack.
And Carmelo Anthony has brought himself to the upper echelon of the NBA. By the time this series is over, his name will have to be up there with Lebron, Kobe, D-Wade and....Melo. Heck, by the time the Playoffs are over, it very well could be Melo with the ring.
Through two games, Melo has scored 73, Kobe 72.
Sasha Vujacic has yet to show up in the entire playoffs. He's usually good for a couple of three's off the bench. Vujacic failed to get in the scoring column last night.
And Derek Fisher is on his last leg. Last night he had only 3 points on 1-9 shooting! What are you doing giving this guy the last shot of the game?
Linas Kleiza's performance was outstanding. Kleiza had 16 points off the bench. He was 4-7 from downtown and a hit a couple of 3's towards the end of the first half which got Denver back in the game.
And last year, everyone was talking about the Pau Gasol trade and how it was a steal for the Lakers and would put this team over the top. Well, this year Chauncey Billups has had a tremendous impact on this Denver team. They went from borderline playoff team to potential NBA Champs. You just can't say enough about the influence Billups has on a team.
I thought I would never say this, but the NBA Playoffs are better than the NCAA Tournament. The Tourney is basically two full days of basketball. The NBA you get pretty much two months. And don't trying comparing the Final Four's. In the NCAA, you get 3 games in the Final Four. The NBA we can possibly get 14 games. And this year's playoffs are fantastic. We truly have the 4 best teams left standing.
I'm totally changing my pick in the Western Conference. I think Denver wins this series in 6. There is no way LA wins a game in Denver. Especially not Game 3 which will be the biggest game in their franchise history. And I'm still waiting for J.R. Smith to explode, and he will. This guy has been a huge boost for Denver off the bench. His range is anywhere 5 feet or more behind the 3 point line. He will get hot and it will kill the Lakers.
And when the Lakers lose this series, not only will Kobe's career be questioned, but also Phil Jackson's. The Zen Master won 6 titles with the greatest player of all time and then won 3 with a dominant Shaq at the peak of his career and when Kobe was just getting started.
48 hours ago it still looked like a lock for the dream Finals matchup of Kobe/Lebron. Boy how that quickly changed.