Denver Nuggets: Five reasons they might upset the L.A. Lakers in the playoffs
|Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Al Harrington.|
The Nuggets' strengths are their depth and versatility. Denver has six players who average double-digit points per game. However, in the playoffs, rotations usually shorten and teams' best players are on the floor more. So while Denver's bench advantage might be more critical in the regular season, when backups are playing more, it is not as big of an asset in the post-season.
On the bright side, while bench players have historically scored less on the road, the Nuggets bench actually averaged a point a game more on the road this season. Also, key bench players for the Nuggets, such as Miller, Al Harrington and Corey Brewer, are the most veteran players on the team and less likely to get rattled by playoff pressure. At least that's the theory.
1. Kobe Bean Bryant: This may seem counter-intuitive, because Bryant is also the number one or two reason the Lakers are likely to win this series. But here's a little secret: Kobe is no longer the best, most efficient offensive option for the Lakers. Andrew Bynum is.
Source I'll be taking all the shots, thank you.
Bynum is shooting 82 percent in crunch-time. That's a real stat, not a typo.
Kobe shot 42 percent from the field after the All-Star break. He shot 38 percent in the month of March and has been battling a shin injury that kept him out of several games in April. The Lakers are simply worse when Kobe is jacking up a ton of shots and hitting on less than half of them. In the playoffs, if a game is close in the final minutes, he's even more likely to play hero-ball and force a contested jumper with two defenders in his face rather than giving the ball to the guy who shoots 82 percent in those situations.
Bryant has played fifteen years in the NBA, but head coach Mike Brown still felt it wise to let him lead the league in minutes played during this hellacious, lockout-shortened schedule. The Nuggets can hope that takes its toll on Bryant's old legs and he becomes an inefficient jump-shooter who ignores two of the most skilled big men in the game. The Nuggets seem capable of that, as they forced Bryant into 27 percent shooting in the three games he played against Denver this year.
The counter-argument is that he's Kobe Fucking Bryant. He has won five NBA titles and is more than capable of leading the Lakers past a Nuggets team with no players near his level. He has played in more career playoff games (175) than the entire active Nuggets roster (168).
Actually, that's a pretty decent argument.
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