THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
5 Dime - Los Angeles Lakers
As I mentioned two days ago in my Blog here on the site, I thought the underdogs were the way to go in Game One of both Conference Final series. Denver should have won outright and Orlando did. But, as I noted, although I liked both pups, I preferred to sit on the sideline for both contests, evaluating the teams before making any investment decisions.
What did Game of the Denver-Los Angeles series reveal? First, the Nuggets outplayed LA on the road for nearly the entire contest, and still lost. Second, Carmelo Anthony had perhaps the finest game of his career with 39 points, and Denver still lost. Third, the Nuggets held Pau Gasol in check offensively, limiting him to just 13 points, and they still lost.
But it was the nature of the loss that was the most biting. Trevor Ariza stole more than Anthony Carter's ill-advised inbounds pass in the closing seconds; he stole Denver's heart and confidence. Don't believe the big talk after the game from the Nuggets about how they would bounce back and overcome such a devastating loss. Teams usually don't, especially on the road.
The Lakers know they escaped. Kobe was unstoppable as usual against Denver with 40 points, 18 of them in the fourth quarter. But LA also dominated the boards, as expected, enjoying a 46-37 advantage on the glass, outrebounding the Nuggets 17-7 on the offensive end. And although Gasol's scoring was down in Game One, he grabbed a team-high 14 boards.
The Nuggets have received outstanding play from their bench throughout the postseason, but Game One was an exception as it contributed just 16 points. One key reserve, J.R. Smith, hit only 2-of-7 shots and finished with eight points. Making matters worse, he suffered a strained calf late in the opener and the injury left him limping on Wednesday as he did not run in practice.
Smith says he will play tonight. The same goes for Kenyon Martin, who broken his left ring finer in the opener. Combined with Renaldo Balkman, who is doubtful after missing the opener with a sprained ankle, the Nuggets suddenly have some injury concerns at an inopportune time.
You're getting line value with LA because of its shocking loss in Game 6 at Houston, it's underwhelming Game 7 performance at home versus the Rockets, and its near loss Tuesday in Game 1. And the Lakers saw what happened to the Cavaliers last night. After being extended by the Rockets to seven games, watching Cleveland sit and rest through the first two rounds of the playoffs, they now see an opportunity to clamp down on the Nuggets and take a commanding edge in the series while hoping the Cavaliers have a battle royal on their hands with the Magic.