Plenty at stake Sunday for Lakers
Five observations on a great night for the Denver Nuggets:
Dreadful intensity, dreadful intensity against a team without its best player for three games, dreadful intensity against a shorthanded team and staring at the possibility of three losses in four games. There's so much more on the line Sunday at Staples Center than a trip to the Western Conference finals.
This is about how the 2008-09 Lakers will forever be remembered as one of the great underachievers if they lose Game 7, and it will be regarded as a narrow escape if they win then. The Finals last June was a major blow beyond the defeat itself because the Celtics played with more toughness, more teamwork and more heart. But Boston was very good on defense and had the weaponry of
The Rockets of Thursday had zero All-Stars, started four forwards and a guard in a patchwork lineup, were without their biggest scoring threat (
To not win a championship would be the Lakers falling short of their expectations and the expectations of many. To not so much as reach the conference finals when they had home-court advantage and a wounded team on the line would be a monumental setback. Sunday is for their legacy, not just for their playoff lives.
This was their ideal outcome, after all. Rockets win, extend the series to Sunday, let Houston and L.A. wear each other out a little more, open the West finals against someone on a quick turnaround and maybe, if it's the Rockets, with the additional burden of travel. It was good to be a Nugget on Thursday, just before they turned their focus to wishing Game 7 into a quintuple-overtime exhaust-a-thon.
Sunday would have been Game 1 of Lakers-Nuggets had L.A. won on Thursday. Instead, the Nuggets will be resting in Denver.
Game 6 win or not, the attention
We're not quite in Hack-a-Shaq land, but close.
It becomes more than an individual issue because no one else on the Magic can be depended on to hurt opponents inside. The plan, understandably, was to surround him with weapons fanned out on the perimeter. But that forces Orlando to rely on jump shots, and winning 83-75 on Thursday (
This was the moment, the very moment, that illuminated a major reason the Rockets hired Adelman as coach before last season. The steady hand in challenging predicaments (no Yao, no starter taller than 6-foot-9
Yeah, maybe the Rockets were just a little ready for Game 6. Great first quarter that immediately put the Lakers on their heels, and an energized showing by the Houston shrimps essentially going seven deep. Adelman tightened the rotation, with
Another looking-ahead consideration: If the Lakers win, and it is a big if, Denver got a lot of looks at L.A. against small ball and saw the Rockets get outrebounded by only six despite the great size disparity.
It doesn't mean the Nuggets will do it because there is a lot to be said about keeping the rebounding of