The Lakers and the Celtics both played game 7 in their respective conference semifinals on Sunday. Only one team would earn the opportunity to make it back to the Finals. That team is the Lakers. The Rockets competed as hard as any team in the playoffs, but the better team advanced to create a Western Conference Finals match that could easily go 7 games.
The Nuggets will give the Lakers more of a challenge than the Rockets. Denver has a stronger defensive front line and a variety of scoring options. The Nuggets are comfortable grinding it out in the half court offense, but have the weapons to run it back on the fast break. The biggest edge Denver holds over LA at this point is depth. The Nuggets have the best bench of all teams in the playoffs, led by JR Smith and Chris 'Birdman' Anderson.
The Nuggets have been playing at a consistently high level, while the Lakers have been more erratic. What Lakers team will we see in game 1 Tuesday? The impatient, low energy team or smooth executors, playing active defense? It always comes down to X-factors. The Stars (Kobe, Pau, Carmello, and Chauncy) will bring it for their respective teams, but who will provide the edge to get his team to the finals? For the Lakers, Bynum and Odom. For the Nuggets, JR Smith. Or someone else?
The Eastern Conference Finals will not go seven games. Orlando shot the lights out in game 7 to put away a depleted Boston Celtics team, good for them. Guess what, the Cavs are going to smother Orlando's perimeter shooters and frustrate Dwight Howard. Magic turn into a pumpkin, Cavs in 5.