Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions, center, loses the ball to Denver's… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Nuggets have never won a playoff series in five tries against the Lakers, and there's little evidence to suggest an upset here.
While the Nuggets pressed to get into the playoffs, the Lakers rested Kobe Bryant eight of their last 10 games, and gave Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol an entire week off between games. The Lakers won the regular-season series, 3-1, though their margins of victory were only three, four and six.
Starting Forwards: Hey, it's only the first category and Metta World Peace's suspension is already affecting the Lakers. Pau Gasol is a four-time All-Star but Devin Ebanks has scored more than 10 points only twice in his career. Kenneth Faried is a high-action rookie and Danilo Gallinari was a possible All-Star reserve before sustaining ankle and thumb injuries. Edge: Lakers (barely).
Starting Guards: Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo are very nice players, but they've never been out of the first round with the Nuggets. Bryant has been in 41 playoff series, more than balancing out Ramon Sessions' first foray into the post-season. Edge: Lakers.
Starting Center: This would have been mildly entertaining with Bynum against one-word wonder Nene, but the Nuggets sent him packing last month for center JaVale McGee, who can't even start over a guy named Kosta Koufos. Edge: Lakers.
Offense: The Nuggets led the league with 104 points a game, impressive in the hacked-up lockout schedule. The Lakers have three All-Star caliber players and a point guard averaging 12.7 points and 6.2 assists since joining them, but there are still painful memories of their 13-game streak without scoring 100 points. Edge: Nuggets.
Defense/rebounding: The Lakers averaged 46 rebounds a game, second only to Chicago. The Nuggets were a respectable eighth in rebounding but a leaky 29th in points allowed (101). They should thank Sacramento for being especially permeable (104 points a game). Edge: Lakers.
Coaches: George Karl is rumored to have coached James Naismith. He's been around forever. Mike Brown is about to find out what it means to coach the Lakers in the playoffs…for better or worse. Edge: Nuggets.
Benches: Please. The Lakers haven't had any consistency from their reserves other than Matt Barnes. The Nuggets have Al Harrington (14.2 points a game), Andre Miller (9.7) and JaVale McGee (10.3). Edge: Nuggets.
Bresnahan's pick: If World Peace hadn't been so violent last weekend, I'd say Lakers in five. Because of his absence, Lakers in six.