Beating Phoenix by 19 points at home was impressive.
The Suns had come into the game leading the league in field goal percentage and points, yet managed just 36.5 percent against an L.A. team that dominated the paint despite not having its second-best player, Pau Gasol, for the eighth straight game.
“They are great, they are the world champs and there is a reason why they are the world champs,” said Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “Like I said I don’t know where their weakness is really. They are going to be a handful for whoever plays them.”
That, of course, shouldn’t be a surprise. The Lakers did win the title last season. But on Friday night in Denver, things shouldn’t come quite as easily as they did at STAPLES Center on Thursday. The Nuggets, after all, have a few things going for ‘em:
1) Revenge, especially since L.A. won Game 6 in their house to end Denver’s season while the Lakers went on to the title.
2) Size, in the form of Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen that shouldn’t allow the 78 points in the paint conceded by Phoenix.
3) Carmelo Anthony, second only to Kobe Bryant in scoring thus far (30.2 ppg to Bryant’s 33.0), playing at an extremely high level.
4) The altitude, as Phil Jackson explained: “Well, the first run I think is the one that takes it out of players. They get exhausted right away with that high altitude, light-headed lung burn. After that you can kind of settle in the second time out. You really move in better shape. The game has to be at level of tempo like we want to play at.”
5) The Lakers got to the team hotel at 3:34 a.m. local time.
Since the Nuggets rank fifth and L.A. eighth in points per game, it should be an entertaining game to watch, played at a high tempo (but not too high, says Jackson). One area to watch … the offensive glass, where L.A. ranks 5th and Denver ranks just 25th on the defensive boards.