Will Kobe Bryant’s frustration with his teammates push the the Los Angeles Lakers to victory in Saturday’s Game 7 do or die matchup vs. the Denver Nuggets, or launch them into the offseason much sooner than many expected?
Like him or not, Kobe Bryant will not step on the basketball court and ever give less than 100 precent...injured, sick or otherwise. The same can’t be said for his fellow Lakers.
Pau Gasol’s play in the last two games vs. the Nuggets has been laughable, culminating with his pathetic Game 6 performance that ended with three points and three rebounds in 28:54 minutes played. To make matters worse, his defensive effort and overall hustle was suspect as time and time again the Denver big men beat Gasol down the floor.
Now what for the Lakers? Metta World Peace returns from his suspension and should bring some much needed energy and a defensive presence his team has sorely lacked in his absence. MWP became an important piece in the Lakers offense down the regular season stretch scoring in double figures nine times in the final 10 games while averaging 16 points per game over that stretch.
Ty Lawson has continued to spark Denver’s fast paced offense. Los Angeles has had no answer for Lawson in Game 6 where he hung 32 on the Lakers in just 30 minutes of floor time. Denver is now 4-2 against the spread in the series and 8-2 against the spread in the last 10 games overall.
The Don Best odds screen currently has the Lakers laying 5½ points with a total of 196½ in Saturday's nightcap on the NBA slate (10:30 p.m. ET).
After both teams closed out their respective series on Thursday night, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers tip Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at 8:00 p.m. (ET) at TD Garden.
The hungry Sixers defeated the Celtics twice early in the lockout shortened season. The third and final meeting between these Atlantic Division foes (a Boston 103-79 victory) should be more indicative of what Philadelphia will face in this seven-game series. Kevin Garnett is now playing center. Ray Allen is coming off the bench to provide some scoring punch to the second unit. second year defensive specialist Avery Bradley is providing speed and defense to the starting unit and collectively, these changes have turned the Celtics from old and pretending to experienced and contending.
Doug Collins has done a remarkable job in Philadelphia but, the buck stops here for the Sixers. Boston will bring a business as usual playoff mentality while my intuition tells me Philadelphia may experience a huge letdown after their emotional series-clinching victory Thursday night over the top-seeded Chicago Bulls. The Sixers offense is clumsy, bulky and bogs down more often than not. Bradley’s ball pressure will pester Evan Turner into turnovers and make it difficult for Philadelphia to get into their sets.
To make matters worse for Philly, the Celtics defense, as a unit, is playing as well as it has all season. Barring a series-ending injury to Garnett or Paul Pierce, Boston should be facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals sooner rather than later.
Boston opened as 5½-point chalk with 170½ for the total on Saturday.