May 14: The Lakers scenery for the 2008 Playoffs is very different from last year,. when they arrived with the 7th seed and had to face the Suns for the second consecutive postseason. The Suns did their job quickly against an L.A. team that had the NBA scoring leader but nothing much to offer, with Lamar Odom not comfortable with his role of second scorer and a group of talented but too young players.
This year, the Lakers will start the postseason as the team with best record in a very competitive Western Conference. A strange season that started with Kobe Bryant asking to be traded turn out to be one full of championship hopes, mainly thanks to the arrival of Pau Gasol and the fast growth of the young players (Farmar, Bynum, Vujacic, Turiaf). The absence of Andrew Bynum, still not recovered, will be noted but the on the bright side, the Lakers managed to be at the top of the West without him.
The Nuggets, despite making the playoffs with the 8th seed in the crowded Western Conference, won 50 games in the regular season, which would have earned them a 4th place in the East. They have the 3rd and 4th scorers in the league in Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson and a big defensive presence, a good rebounder and shot blocker in Marcus Camby. But chemistry and character issues will be the key for their performance and of course, they don't seem to have someone to slow Kobe Bryant down or the team consistency to interrupt the Lakers ball movement.