DENVER -- The Lakers went to Houston tied 1-1 in their Western Conference semifinals series with the Rockets. They immediately recaptured homecourt advantage by playing well and winning Game 3, then proceeded to give it right back by mailing in Game 4.
Kobe Bryant doesn't want a repeat performance.
"This is the test tonight," Bryant said Saturday. "We play well at home, where everybody’s comfortable. We lost a tough one in Game 2, but for the most part, we played well at home. This is the test, because the last two times on the road we played horrible. Game 3 in Houston we played extremely well. This is the test to see how we respond."
Did the Lakers learn anything from the Houston experience?
"Nothing," Bryant said, before quickly reconsidering. "Don’t do that. Whatever we did, whatever we ate before [Game 4], don’t eat that."
The Lakers (29-12) had the best road record in the league this season. The Nuggets (33-8) had the third-best home record in the West behind the Lakers and Portland. The noise and home-court advantage Denver enjoys are among the most formidable in the league. And a proven truth about the playoffs -- young players and role players perform better at home -- plays right into Denver's hands. They know what they're going to get out of Carmelo Anthony, but contributions from J.R. Smith, Anthony Carter, Chris Andersen, or Linas Kleiza could be pivotal in Games 3 and 4.
"If we can get our transition game going at home, it's like a snowball effect," Chauncey Billups said. "If we get all those guys playing with a little more energy and confidence, you can make maybe one or two more mistakes and cover up for it when you're playing hard and you've got your fans."
Two questions before I get ready to go back to the arena: 1) Which Lakers team shows up, and 2) Will they be able to withstand a fast start by the Nuggets, and all the noise and momentum that would go with it?