NBA Playoff Schedule 2012: Breaking Down Lakers vs. Nuggets Game by Game

The Los Angeles Lakers' first-round schedule against the Denver Nuggets will impact the team more than a schedule otherwise might in most years.

With Metta World Peace suspended for the first six games of the postseason and backup small forward Matt Barnes recovering from a sprained ankle, Los Angeles' depth will be challenged early and often in the series. Barnes won't miss additional time due to the injury, but he's also unlikely to be playing at 100 percent.

The Lakers will need to make the most of their first two games at home—and not just because the Nuggets are 153-44 at home since 2007-08.

Denver's home court will be especially rough on Los Angeles' All-Star seven-footers. The Nuggets averaged 104 points a game this season with an up-tempo pace that can tire bigs out. That pace is all the more exhausting in the high altitude of Pepsi Center's thin air.

Here are some key factors to look for in each of Los Angeles' seven potential first-round games.  


Game 1: Nuggets at Lakers, Sunday at 12:30

It's absolutely crucial that the Lakers set a tone with this first game—anything short of a convincing victory could give Denver's young ensemble of a roster the confidence it needs to fight for the upset. The last thing the Lakers want is a long series.

Expect Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to establish themselves early in an attempt to control the pace and force the Nuggets to play a more half-court game. 


Game 2: Nuggets at Lakers, May 1 at 7:30

This could be a dangerous game for Los Angeles. If Matt Barnes is still showing the effects of his ankle sprain, depth could become a factor on the Lakers' wing, especially if third-string small forward Devin Ebanks isn't up to the task of playing big playoff minutes.

We'll also know after this game if Kobe Bryant's extended absence in April lef...

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