|Lakers will need to stop and slow down the speedy Nuggets. (Getty Images)|
Eye on Basketball presents the 2012 NBA playoffs first round series previews. In this edition, the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.
Denver: Speed. The Nuggets led the league in points in the paint and shots at the rim, but not because of a superior post player. It's because of their fearsome transition game. The Nuggets have a deadly secondary break, turning a made basket by an opponent into a transition opportunity the other way. The Nuggets could potentially run the Lakers ragged, forcing them into unformcortable smallball style lineups that marginalize their superiority on the block.
Denver: Isolation scoring. George Karl doesn't see that as a weakness, but a strength. His team ball style has been a joy to watch, has made the Nuggets into a dangerous five-man offensive weapon and keeps everyone a threat on the floor. But as the Thunder showcased last postseason against Denver, there's something to be said for having a player you can go to for points. Karl says he thinks the idea of a "closer" is a touch overrated and has pegged Ty Lawson as his man for that, but if it's a two possession game in the final four minutes against the Lakers, who do you favor? Kobe, Bynum and Gasol or the teamball Nuggets?
Denver: JaVale McGee. What? Seriously. It's really combination of McGee, Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos but it comes down to if the Nuggets interior can hold their heads up. McGee has the athleticism and length, but maybe not the strength to match Bynum. Faried is an animal (manimal) but he's a tad undersized, especially when compared to Gasol. The Nuggets are relentless attacking the glass, but they can't afford to give the Lakers second chances. Especially because the first step to a fast break is securing a defensive rebound. If the Lakers own the glass, it will minimalize the Nuggets most explosive offensive weapon.
Denver: Depth. And coaching. The Nuggets go a solid nine deep. They have talent spread throughout the roster, have lots of bodies to throw on the floor against Bynum and Gasol and quality defenders to try on Kobe. But I think George Karl gives Denver a big advantage in this series. No disrespect to Mike Brown, but Karl knows how to maximize matchups, make adjustments and simplify the game to get the most out of a likely overmatched roster.
WILL WIN IF...
Denver: It doesn't stop running. The Nuggets need to bust out of the gates running and never stop. It's hard to commit to the transition game in a close second half, but every extra basket Denver scores in transition is gravy. It could force Mike Brown into a rotation where he might have to sit one of his best players -- Bynum -- in favor for someone more agile to keep up. The Nuggets want to determine pace and procedure in this series.
THE PICK: Lakers in six | Read more expert predicitions