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Lakers Can Win But Will They?

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Kobe Bryant flies over Denver Nuggets on April 28, 2008 in the first round of the 2008 NBA playoffs. AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

That had to be one of the most frustrating Lakers playoff series in recent memory. The undermanned Houston Rockets team sans Tracy McGrady, Dikembe Mutombo and as of game three Yao Ming had no business being in that series. That should have been at worst a five-game series. But the Lakers sometime lackadaisical play kept the Rockets in the series making superstars out of Luis Scola, Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks.

But that's over and done with, and now the Lakers have the Denver Nuggets to deal with. This was the Nuggets team that embarrassed the New Orleans Hornets to the tune of 58 points in New Orleans in the first round. This was the Nuggets team that easily dispatched the Dallas Mavericks in five games that would have been a clean sweep had it not been for Dirk Nowitzki's fourth quarter heroics in game four in Dallas.

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This is a tough Nuggets team, but weren't the Jazz and Rockets supposed to be tough also?

The Lakers led the season series against the Nuggets 3-1 with the last win coming right before the end of the season, a 116-102 win. In fact in NBA playoff history the Lakers lead 13-2, one win coming in the first round of the 1979 playoffs and one in the 1985 Western Conference Finals.

The Nuggets are anchored by point guard Chauncey Billups and forward Carmelo Anthony. They are capable of giving the Lakers fits trying to defend them. However Anthony was limited to only 14.5 points against the Lakers in the four games, scoring over 20 in only the Lakers blowout win at the end of the season. Billups got his points averaging 18 in the three games he played, but the Lakers were to able to render the rest of the Nuggets squad irrelevant. In their only win the Nuggets we helped out by JR Smith who scored 22 points.

The Lakers meanwhile with the exception of the first game was able to score in the paint at will against the Nuggets improved defense. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum was able to make their way to the basket at will. And of course the Nuggets couldn't contain Kobe Bryant.

All things point to the Lakers winning this series in five games, but as we all witnessed in the Rockets series the Lakers are very unpredictable. Which team will show up in game three in Denver? Have the Lakers learned their lesson from that Rockets series?

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Lord knows, but the Lakers will win this series. Lakers defeat Nuggets in six games.

Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals begin tonight at Staples Center at 6:00 pm. ESPN, AM 570 KLAC.