Laker legacy nothing new to Denver Nuggets
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado “-Before Sunday’s Rockets vs. Lakers Game 7, Nuggets coach George Karl knew the winner ” and thus, his next opponent ” would either be the hottest defensive team since the 2007 New York Giants or a rejuvenated giant.
“L.A., for two years, has been the deepest, most-talented, biggest team in the NBA,” Karl said. “We said before the game started ” if the Lakers win this, whatever funk they’re in, they’re going to be out of it. They’re going to be ready to play in the conference finals. I have a lot of respect for that. We’re not going to have an opponent that’s disoriented.”
Within just a few minutes, it was obvious who Denver would play in the Western Conference finals. Even though defensive-minded Houston stunned L.A. in Game 6, the Lakers dominated Game 7 at the Staples Center, like numerous Nuggets predicted, and so No. 2 seed Denver will be there for a practice today.
“To be the best, you got to play the best,” Denver’s Carmelo Anthony said. “The Lakers are obviously the best team in the West and one of the best teams in the league. We know, in the back of our minds, what happened last year, but last year is over with. It’s a new year. We’re going to be ready.”
Last year, the Lakers defeated Denver in four regular-season games and all four playoff games. The Nuggets then lost the first two this season (only one with Chauncey Billups), until Feb. 27 at the Pepsi Center, a night when everything went right. Denver won 90-79 as the Lakers shot 29.8 percent from the field, their second-lowest effort since moving to Los Angeles in 1960.
That night, Karl said: “This was a playoff type of game for us.”
On Sunday, Billups said of the Feb. 27 accomplishment: “You can pull from that, but we’re a totally different basketball team right now. Playoff basketball is a different intensity, different focus. Yeah, that team has been super successful against us the last couple years, but that doesn’t really matter right now.”
Heading into this series, the Nuggets know Kobe Bryant will be key, and Dahntay Jones will key in against No. 24, with some help from Anthony Carter, Anthony and Kenyon Martin. (Karl said J.R. Smith won’t guard Kobe, even though Smith did an OK job in the Feb. 27 win.)
“Now, knowing it’s the Lakers ” we’ve been preparing for them for a few days now ” it’s going to be a tough task, but I think the guys are up for it,” Martin said. “They’re a good team, but we’re playing pretty good basketball as well. It’s going to be a great series.
“Regular season is over with it. It’s 0-0 with us. It’s a great opportunity for us to prove to everybody we can play, that we’re a legitimate contender. We know it around here. But we still have to go out and win a big series. It’s going to be fun.”