Similar in the sense that I expect it to be close. Maybe this series will have its blowout game — all series seem to — but for the most part the games will be close and the difference will be execution under fire.
How I expect it to be different is in how the Lakers attempt to dictate the game — this time they will go inside and attack mismatches with Denver’s front line. If Nene is on Gasol, then Bynum needs to tear up Martin. Clearly the Lakers wanted to do that last game but were taken aback by the fronting strategy and energy that Denver put into stopping the post entry passes.
As there always are in the triangle, there were counters to what Denver did but the Lakers didn’t seem to execute them. First, I expect the Lakers will try to get Bynum and Gasol (and even Kobe) running and trying to get early position deep (and hopefully they will get the ball this time, the Lakers did not reward running bigs last game). Also, look for the Lakers bigs to move from week to strong and get the ball as they do, look maybe even for the bigs setting screens for each other.
What the Lakers need to do is attack — they started doing that at the end of the last game and that is when they got calls. Before that, Denver got the calls because they attacked the rim. (Hopefully the officiating is a little more consistent for everyone tonight.) But off the dribble or pass to the post, the Lakers need to get to the rim.
When that happens the Nuggets will collapse, and that is when Fisher/Farmar/Sasha/Ariza/Walton need to make them pay with threes.
The Lakers can score off the Kobe/Gasol pick and roll, that is a deadly combination, but the Nuggets are a good pick-and-roll defensive team, so hopefully there is not a steady diet of this.
Defensively, the Lakers need to do better early in the clock and in transition. The Lakers need to do better finding Billups and Melo in transition and not letting them make the play.
Denver wants to get fast break points but when that is not there they almost always set a drag screen (a big behind the play stops up for an early-in-the-clock pick and roll) and after the deliberate pace of the Houston series the Lakers did not adjust well to this. Billups is not going to have another off game shooting like that, especially if the Lakers bigs do not do a better job on that drag screen. The Lakers bigs need to show out, take away his jumper and easy path to the basket, then recover,
I don’t expect Melo to be as hot, but he won’t be cold either. He is playing well right now and the Lakers need to just make him work for his points. Whether it is Ariza, Walton or Kobe, somebody needs to step up and step out on him a little. And that may be hard because I expect Denver will start having him attack from the top of the key, where the Lakers rotations are not as paint-by-numbers.
The Lakers need to continue their domination of the boards. And the bench needs another good night
Bottom line, I think Bynum is going to be a good barometer for the Lakers this game. And I hope Ding is right.