The Los Angeles Lakers, the Pacific Division champions and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, square off against the Denver Nuggets in one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round. Metta World Peace is suspended for the first six games of this series for his elbow to James Harden's head, which probably has contributed to the fact that the Nuggets are slightly favored before the series begins.
The key for the Lakers will be managing their lack of depth. As Kobe Bryant continues to try to work his way back to full strength from a shin injury and with World Peace out of the lineup for likely all of this series, head coach Mike Brown has to figure out a way to prevent guys like Devin Ebanks, Andrew Goudelock, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts from playing in key stretches, especially at the same time. If Brown can manage those minutes effectively, the Lakers should be fine.
As crazy as this would have sounded a few months ago when he was championing the league's avant-garde art project known as the early-season Washington Wizards, JaVale McGee could be the key in this series. Facing the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, McGee's potential ability to control the paint defensively and contribute on offense could sway the series, while Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried provide fast-break energy the Lakers have never shown the ability to match, even with trade-deadline acquisition Ramon Sessions.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, April 29, 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles