While West Is Far from Won, Is the Race Just Between the Lakers and Nuggets?


It's that time of year again, as NBA teams are jockeying for position with the playoffs right around the corner.

Everyone from Boston, Orlando, Los Angeles and Denver are attempting to get better prepared to make a push come April. The last month and a half or so of the season will distinguish the contenders from the pretenders.

So who's who?

It's understood by many that the Lakers are the Western Conference's best team—or are they?

Are Kobe Bryant and the Lakers (42-14) really a sure lock for the West's No. 1 seed? 

Chauncey Billups and the Denver Nuggets (37-19) are mounting a case against Los Angeles and its Western supremacy—and they're gaining more than a little attention from the rest of the league. Don't forget that there's a possible NBA MVP candidate running the court in the Rocky Mountains, Carmelo Anthony, who's third in the league in scoring at 29 points per game. 

Los Angeles and Denver are near mirror images of each other record wise. Five losses separate the two squads in the loss column and the same goes for the win column. Both teams are strong at home (26-5 LAL, 24-5 DEN) and within their conference (24-10 LAL, 22-12 DEN).

The Lakers have the advantage when it comes to road trips, though. Los Angeles is 16-9 when away from the Staples Center, while the Nuggets with just a 13-14 road record, struggle while away from the Pepsi Center.

A team's road record is a logical barometer to measure playoff success. No home court advantage can end up in a lopsided series.

Denver looks like a legitimate No. 2 in the West, but it's within striking distance of the top-spot should the Lakers miss a step. One thing that the Nuggets have on their side is this: They play well against the defending NBA Champions.

Denver is 2-0 this season against Phil Jackson's team and won its last meeting on the strength of...

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