With the Dallas Mavericks’ victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night, the Nuggets were ensured the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Waiting for them at the top of the standings is a new and improved Laker team, holding homecourt advantage in the opening round for the first time since 2004.
However, in perhaps the tightest race in conference history, the Nuggets don’t feel they are far behind the Lakers. One of those guys that looks forward
to high-profile matchups is Allen Iverson:
“Everybody knows how big that stage is,” Iverson said. “I relish the moment. This is what I play basketball for. This is why I love it so much. The competitive part of me is going to definitely come out. It would have come out regardless who we played or who we played against, but definitely under the bright lights, those are the moments I cherish.”
The Answer is going to match up against none other than Kobe Bryant come Sunday. Apparently, he’s not rattled by that thought either:
“Let’s go. This is what it’s all about for me. You can’t draw it up any better,” Iverson said. “People say he’s the best basketball player on the planet, so I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge. Especially with me believing that about myself, so let’s go.[
“This is what it’s about. If you’re scared, get a dog.”
While Iverson may live by a “no fear” mentality, no one sticks by that motto more than Kobe Bryant. The last time Bryant and Iverson met in a Playoff series was in the 2001 Finals, with the Lakers knocking off the Sixers in five games en route to their second straight championship.
Thus, AI should know better than most that Kobe embraces the challenge
“It’s all about momentum,” Kobe Bryant said. “You want to be playing your best basketball going into the playoffs, and we feel like we’re doing that. We ended the season exactly the way we wanted to.”
But enough of all the mano y mano talk. The Lakers also are going to have to deal with that other All-Star on the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony. Solution? Throw The Machine at him
Vujacic, and the rest of the team for that matter, will have the crucial task of slowing down Denver’s high-octane offense. Phil Jackson knows that just as much as anyone:
“Obviously, you’ve got an offensive team in Denver, a free-wheeling team,” he said.
The Lakers are going to have to focus on maintaining a defensive identity even without their low-post anchor Andrew Bynum. The team showed some nice signs on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, particularly in the second half. The question is, can they build on it?
The truth will be told as the Lakers face the Nuggets
on Sunday morning.