DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 03: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers controls the ball as Arron Afflalo #6 of the Denver Nuggets defends at the Pepsi Center on February 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Lakers go on the road tonight, as they prepare to face the Denver Nuggets, in hopes of taking a commanding 3-0 series lead. Of course, they will once again play with out their suspended starting forward, Metta World Peace, who will miss his fourth game of a seven-game suspension to his over-emphatic "celebratory" elbow that decked Oklahoma City's James Harden.
While the Thunder themselves enjoy a 3-0 lead over the Dallas Mavericks, it's widely assumed that the Lakers will be certain to meet OKC in the 2nd Round. Which begs the question: Do the Lakers want to face the Kevin Durant and the Thunder without MWP? Some of us have wondered if the Lakers should "make" this a 6-game series just so MWP's return coincides with facing KD for the entirety of the series. It's not a serious thought, because no team should ever give away games, plus that Devin Ebanks kid hasn't been too bad.
Personally, I picked the Lakers in six anyway, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Lakers keep their focus and look for the sweep. Especially if Kobe's keeps ups his high level of play and leadership. In Denver, how the Lakers and Kobe continue to work around Arron Afflalo's defense will be key in getting a win in a hostile environment. Also because the Nuggets can't do a damn thing with Andrew Bynum, who's vast skill set continues to impress.
While Mike Brown has been getting more credit lately, Kobe's leadership and calm presence has just as much to do with why the Lakers have seemed to settle in.How to explain Bryant's patience with Andrew Bynum's immaturity issues, Metta World Peace arriving to training camp out of shape and Bryant's willingness to be a coach on the sideline during his recent shin injury? He has a former head coach to thank.
"It's part of being around Phil [Jackson] so much," Bryant said. "A lot of it has rubbed off on me. I try to communicate that around the guys as best as I can."
Ahhh, Phil Jackson. With the Knicks getting their asses handed to them by the Heat again, you know the Phil-to-New York talk has already started. Which reminds me, if the Lakers win the title this season, do we Lakers fans still put the asterisk on San Antonio's lockout championship in 1999? Bill Simmons, perhaps getting ready for the Heat to beat his Celtics en route to "not one, not two, not three, not four, not five"....(ehh, you get the point) is already claiming footnotes to this championship (and others). Calm down, Bill. The Heat always look great in the 1st-Round. I'm picking your C's to make the Finals and lose to our guys. Lakers vs. Celtics one more time? Wouldn't that cap off one hell of an era? Plus, as a soon-to-be 33-year-old, I feel a great source of pride knowing these youngins can't beat my generation. Jay-Z did say 30 is the new 20, but no one told him Brooklyn's new logo is booooooring.
3-0! Let's Go!!!