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Lakers Roundtable: L.A. Times' Mark Medina and Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman preview Lakers-Nuggets game

Much has changed since our last chat with The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman. He no longer has to run 40-yard sprints in 6.71 seconds to track down Carmelo Anthony in the latest saga of Melodrama. He's actually seen the Nuggets play defense, playing good enough to set up a first-round matchup as a fifth seed against Oklahoma City. And, of course, the Lakers are playing much better as well, going 17-1 since the All-Star break and entering Sunday's matchup with the Nuggets with a season-best nine-game winning streak.

Among the highlights with my conversation with Hochman:

--How the Nuggets have changed since they traded Anthony to the Knicks and how Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari

--Why Hochman believes the Nuggets could beat the Thunder in the first-round

--How the Nuggets are in a balancing act in resting Aaron Affalo's strained left hamstring for the playoffs, but ensuring they keep a lead over Portland in the standings.

--Why the Nuggets playing tough against the Lakers would be needed for an upset

--How Hochman fared against NBA.com's Aaron Lopez in a race.

--You can follow more of Hochman's work at the Denver Post's website and on Twitter.

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
Comments () | Archives (18)

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Edwin,

I don't think that the Bulls have a tougher schedule than the Lakers.

Both teams have 4 more home games, 3 away.

The Bulls have only 3 playoff bound teams to play, Celtics at home; Magic and Knicks on the road.

The Lakers have 4 playoff bound teams; Nuggets, OKC, Spurs, Jazz at home then GS, Portland, the Kings on the road.

Both teams could win out or both could lose a game or two, but it looks to me like the Bulls have an easier schedule. Every team they play except the Magic has been really sputtering through the last 10 games.

For the Lakers, Denver, Portland and OKC have been playing well the last 10 games.

Of course it's too early to get too hung up on this anyway, the Bulls still gotta make it to the Finals, but it makes for good speculation and conversation.

I'm glad you brought it up as it motivated me to check out the remaining games and take a closer look.

Hey, the way the Lakers are going they may not lose another game until 2012 since the first half of the 2011/12 season may be locked out.

Depending on the length of the lockout if the Lakers keep rolling they may not lose again for another year! What a record that would be.

Now wouldn't that be kinda neat.

What's Hochman smoking? Each of their guys can take over?
How about none of them are really very good? No stars= 1st round exit.
I'll be surprised if they win more than two games in the playoffs.
Other than Felton and maybe Afflalo, could any of them play significant minutes on the Lakers?

Art,

And even if Chicago owns the tiebreaker vs the Lakers, I don't have a lot of confidence that they can actually MAKE the finals.

There's not a player on the Bulls who's ever BEEN to the finals. The regular season is not the playoffs. If two teams are relatively close overall, the team that has more playoff experience is going to have a better shot at winning. Also, superstars count double in the playoffs. And Chicago only has one guy who's borderline superstar - Rose. The 2 or 3 superstars of Miami or Boston will trump them in a playoff series.

Boston is well-tested in that regard, and they tanked near the end of last regular season as well and still ended up making the finals. I'd never count them out until Kenny & Chuck put up the Gone Fishin' images of them.

Miami has a depth problem, but LeBron and DWade have EACH carried a team to the finals. And there are a few other guys on that roster who also have some playoff savvy. Their biggest problem is going to be size, and that won't be as important against Chicago as it would be against Boston, Orlando, or the Lakers.

Even Orlando has more playoff experience than Chicago. The coach and several members of the team made the finals just two years ago. They're weaker now than they were then in terms of talent, but they're stronger in experience. I'm not sure they could get past Boston, but I wouldn't be surprised if Orlando beat Chicago in a playoff series.

Shaq has played for as many teams as Rodman.

Posted by: keen observer | April 02, 2011 at 02:44 PM

=====

Has anyone noticed that while the Lakers have been sizzling hot, this POSER hasn't been anywhere to be found? So this is what he posts as his "keen observation" while his Hate Chamber is empty. Yeah, I know the "rule" about criticizing the message and not the messenger, but this POSER is a JOKE!

LTLF,

I don't disagree with most of what you wrote, hence why in my first post I said, "of course it's too early to get too hung up on this anyway, the Bulls still gotta make it to the Finals".

I don't agree that the Magic could beat the Bulls, but do agree that the Celts or Heat could. They should have some good playoff series, can't count those top 3 out until they're out. I count the Magic as one of the bottom 5, I don't think any of them have much chance.

But for the sake of a weird sort of coming full circle history, it would be kinda neat if the Lakers played (and beat) the Bulls.

IIRC, Phil, MJ and the Bulls won their first championship in 1991 against the Lakers.

LTLF: Excellent post on the Bulls and their relative lack of experience. My instincts tell me that the Lakers will be facing either Boston or Orlando in the Finals. Although both would be great series, there's only one team I'd like to see this Lakers team beat. I'm sure you know the team of which I speak.

Go Lake Show!

LTLF,

Experience matters in the playoffs and that does pertain to Chicago making the Finals. I would be willing to wager 7-2 to that the Bulls make the Finals. In fact, I did.

My reasoning is that despite a lack of experience with deep runs, Thibodeau has experience designing a Finals winning defense for the Bulls and really has his team's respect. He's got them playing great basketball.

Rose has some playoff experience as does Noah (albeit first round exits). Boozer has quite a bit of playoff experience (though his D is a bit suspect, less so with Thibs at the helm).

Deng is playing the best he has in his career. Bench depth of Korver, Watson and Ronnie Brewer helps a lot too.

The Celtics are in disarray. It's not the same team without Perkins and morale took a hit. Orlando just doesn't quite have it together.

The Heat? Still not quite good enough. Too many injuries, too much instability.

It will not be easy and there are some precedents against them, but I think Chicago comes out of the East. We really, really need to make sure that we get HCA against them. That was even one of Phil's concerns.

I think Chicago is playing too well, too good at D and too balanced not to have their momentum carry them to the Finals. Rose gets the regular season MVP. That pisses off Kobe. Then we win.

We've seen plenty of fluky teams leave the East. The 2007 Cavs, for instance. Or, the 2009 Magic.'

There's enough precedent to indicate a Chicago Bulls Finals appearance this year is highly plausible, even likely.

Just my opinion.

LTLF,

Experience matters in the playoffs and that does pertain to Chicago making the Finals. I would be willing to wager 7-2 to that the Bulls make the Finals. In fact, I did.

My reasoning is that despite a lack of experience with deep runs, Thibodeau has experience designing a Finals winning defense for the Bulls and really has his team's respect. He's got them playing great basketball.

Rose has some playoff experience as does Noah (albeit first round exits). Boozer has quite a bit of playoff experience (though his D is a bit suspect, less so with Thibs at the helm).

Deng is playing the best he has in his career. Bench depth of Korver, Watson and Ronnie Brewer helps a lot too.

The Celtics are in disarray. It's not the same team without Perkins and morale took a hit. Orlando just doesn't quite have it together.

The Heat? Still not quite good enough. Too many injuries, too much instability.

It will not be easy and there are some precedents against them, but I think Chicago comes out of the East. We really, really need to make sure that we get HCA against them. That was even one of Phil's concerns.

I think Chicago is playing too well, too good at D and too balanced not to have their momentum carry them to the Finals. Rose gets the regular season MVP. That pisses off Kobe. Then we win.

We've seen plenty of fluky teams leave the East. The 2007 Cavs, for instance. Or, the 2009 Magic.'

There's enough precedent to indicate a Chicago Bulls Finals appearance this year is highly plausible, even likely.

Just my opinion.

i don't care who the opponent is. to be champion, you must take on all comers. it's true that some teams may be easier than others, but all the good teams will be hard. that said, no one in the current NBA can beat the Lakers is they are healthy and focused, no one.

Triangulator,

I sincerely hope that wasn’t your last post. And as you can see many here has echoed that sentiment. We’re all here because we’re Lakers fans. I hope you’ll reconsider and stay and enjoy the ride.

In my opinion, playing a Hornets team in a 7 game series without its other star is a waste of time, whereby playing a team that has a front line of Marc Gasol and Z-Bo or LaMarcus Aldridge and Camby will much better prepare the Lakers for Dallas, OKC or possibly even the Spurs (remote chance) in the second round, depending on where the Lakers finish.

Posted by: KobeMVP888 | April 02, 2011 at 11:51 AM
----------
MVP,

I think the Lakers will be prepared for the 2nd round no matter who the 1st round opponent is. Earlier in the year the way the Lakers were playing I would’ve preferred an easier opponent, but now -- no problems either way. Magic and Co. regularly had a cake walk in the 1st rd and it didn’t affect them. Same for Phil’s other three 3peat teams.

@Lew – nice flavor for today with a good message….Biggie rocking the Lakers colors…its all good baby…bay-bee!

Also enjoyed the Matchbox20 song for Tri. Well appropriate.

Oh yeah, about the Bulls making the Finals, 2 more things of importance will determine the outcome, one of those certainly more relevant than the other. The reader can decide which is more important.

1) The Bulls have the best Home record in the East at 32-5, and will likely have HCA against all other East teams. Not impossible to overcome, but certainly advantage Bulls.

2) Back in Sept before the season started, right here in this very blog, I predicted the Lakers would play the Bulls in the Finals :)

Ben,
---"The Heat? Still not quite good enough. Too many injuries, too much instability."---


HOLD THE PRESS, Riley is about to sign Eddie Curry...WE'RE SCREWED NOW!!!!!! LOL

I don't think Chicago has the low post presence to be a serious championship contender. I'd be very surprised if they made it out of the East, though I'll be rooting for them to make it to the Finals.

Triangulator- Dude...what's the DEAL, Quitters never WIN. I believe you're one of the blog27? Your team is so close to a 3 peat and your walking AWAY, if most of the Lakerholics felt like you it wouldn't be anyone HERE What are you going to do when The HEAT meet the Lake Show in the FINALS? and Lebron getting ready to DROP the HAMMER on KOBE. You're going to need your blog27 to ease the PAIN. Reconsider ...DUDE.

HOLD THE PRESS, Riley is about to sign Eddie Curry...WE'RE SCREWED NOW!!!!!! LOL

Posted by: dan the man
Good one the man,but with all the Heat deficiency i still wouldn't count them out in the east.You look all the teams they're competing with in the east, and i don't see no clear cut favorite out their.You look at the Celtics;, and how they're play has been as of late since the Perkins trade and can you say you would pick them right now to win the east.Orlando's lacking, and even the Bull,s with their lack of Playoff experience is another knock on them also.What i'm saying is there's no dominate team in the east right now that you can say they're the team to beat.It's up for grabs right now,unless the Celtics can put it together like they did last year.Stay tune i guess.

Go Lakers!

"I don't think Chicago has the low post presence to be a serious championship contender." -EJK

They have more low-post presence than the Celtics or Heat, and are the best rebounding team in the league.


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