The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 at 3:30 p.m. EST on ABC. You can watch a free live stream online of the game available here.
The third-seeded Lakers are led by guard Kobe Bryant, who has recently battled a bruised shin injury, but is still one of the most dominant scorers in the NBA. Bryant had a chance to win the scoring title if he scored more than 37 points in the last game of the season, but uncharacteristically decided to rest up for the playoffs and cede the title to the Thunder's Kevin Durant.
The Lakers' twin tower duo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol also rested in the team's last regular season game in an effort to get as healthy as possible for the speedy Nuggets.
I just feel like we're playing well, Bryant told reporters this week. We've got good size, and we're playing in a good rhythm. ... (With) their speed, their versatility, they can really go to a small lineup, and it can be pretty problematic for us.
The Nuggets have a pair of speedy guards in Ty Lawson and Arron Affalo that could pose problems for the Lakers' backcourt. Lawson led the Nuggets in scoring this year averaging 16.4 points per game, but overall the team had a very balanced offense. The Nuggets had seven players average double digits in scoring during the regular season and have one of the most versatile benches in the NBA.
One of the biggest questions headed into the game is whether Karl will go with the successful small-ball lineups that he has used this season or whether he will give some of his big men some more time in an effort to slow down Bynum and Gasol. Karl has some options at hand with JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov to slow down the Lakers' 7-footers, but the smaller combo of Kenneth Faired and Al Harrington has been more successful for the Nuggets this season.
The other big issue is just how much does the absence of Metta World Peace affect the Lakers. World Peace will miss the first six games of the playoffs for his vicious elbow to the head of the Thunder's James Harden. World Peace is known as the team's defensive stopper and had done a nice job at slowing down Gallinari during four regular-season games. World Peace's replacement Matt Barnes is also battling an ankle injury, which is something Nuggets coach George Karl told reporters is something they'd like to capitalize on.
The Lakers are the clear favorites to emerge out of this series, but Game 1 could determine a lot, especially just how big the loss of World Peace is for the team's hopes to advance.