Lakers-Nuggets Game 1: No time to... well, anything
Given only one day to prepare, the Lakers will be working off the Cliffs' Notes edition of the scouting report- a little shorter, lacking in nuance- tonight as they kick off the Western Conference Finals at home against the Denver Nuggets (6 pm, ESPN). That's all the players have had time to absorb. The good news? A) Denver, who are often improvisational on the offensive end and aren't devoted to a variety of sets, aren't exactly the most nuanced of teams, and B) Kobe Bryant saw the matchup coming, so he's had time to think about it. The Lakers will be focused on energy and execution (it doesn't take a scouting report to play hard), and add more layers of understanding as the series goes along.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, mindful of their reputation and not-so-distant past, were saying all the right things at practice Monday, and are (or at least their coach is) excited at the opportunity in front of them. Really, there's no time to get into a rhetorical battle, anyway. (And besides, Kenyon Martin is still tied up with Mark Cuban. It's a shame that WWE event set for the same night a Game 4 at Pepsi Center has been bumped. Could have been an undercard there.) Or for the Nuggets to visit any local slingers of ink, though the tats Denver's squad has already carry plenty of meaning.
(Frankly, if the series comes down to a battle of tats, the Lakers are screwed.)
But while there isn't much WCF related news, there's no shortage of analysis and opinion for a series even locals think will be tough. Get yourself a latte and settle in. This could take a while...
-For all the talk of Chauncey Billups, the key for Denver is still a big series from an improved Carmelo Anthony. A more mature 'Melo, too.
-In fact, look for the WCF to bring out the best in both Anthony and Kobe.
-ESPN's John Hollinger notes that the Nuggets have been hotter not just in the playoffs, but down the stretch. He has Denver... but isn't betting the farm.
-SI's Lee Jenkins wonders if the Houston series exposed fundamental flaws in the Lakers that Denver might exploit.
VIDEO: I mentioned the Nuggets are saying the right things. AK was at their practice yesterday, and has video evidence to prove the point.
Anthony, on his relationship with Kobe:
Anthony, on how the Nuggets will try to defend Kobe:
Billups, on Denver's dedication to defense:
Kenyon Martin, on physical play against the Lakers:
OTHER NON-WCF NEWS:
There are a couple nuggets (no pun intended) of interest.
- Jerry West disclosed that he played with and continues to be treated for a heart condition. He also said in an interview that he thinks Kobe has been passed up by LeBron James. Say it ain't so, Logo!
- Sad news regarding a former Laker. Brian Grant, who came to LA in the Shaq trade and was known as one of the good, hardworking guys in the league, has early onset Parkinson's. While the diagnosis is horrible, the story of how Grant is coping is inspirational.