Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets — 10:30 PM eastern, telecast on TNT
Tonight features a great matchup between the first-place Los Angeles Lakers and the second-place (well, tied for it, anyway) Denver Nuggets.
Just seeing these two teams on the schedule brings back memories of their physical — oh, so physical — series in the Western Conference finals last year. And I expect to see nothing less exciting tonight, even though some of the most aggressive competitors in Andrew Bynum and Kenyon Martin will be out with their respective injuries.
Regardless, Kobe Bryant will have to deal with the powerful Aaron Afflalo, and Carmelo Anthony and Ron Artest will be pushing each other all night. Here I go about to make another immovable object/unstoppable force analogy, but it deserves to be mentioned here. Anthony is the best post-up 3 in the game, and many consider Artest “unpostable.” That should be incredibly fun to watch.
Up front, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will have to deal with Nene and Johan Petro, not to mention the unpredictably energetic Chris “Birdman” Andersen off the bench.
Chauncey Billups should do his thing against Derek Fisher, who can’t hope to contain Mr. Big Shot. Furthermore, look for J.R. Smith to get his fair share of minutes to take advantage of Kobe’s patented down-the-stretch-only defensive effort.
Combine these factors with the Lakers’ subpar play of late and the Nuggets’ being at home, and I have no choice but to give this one to the Nuggets. I can’t wait to see what transpires. My other prediction? At least two technical fouls in the game that aren’t defensive three seconds.