Deep (and second) Thoughts by Mark Heisler

Can I have my pick back?

No, really. We can say “Lakers in six or less” was a typographical error, and our NBA writer actually said:

“So what if the local Legends in Their Own Mind played a great game, on their home floor, against what remained of the Houston Rockets?

“These Denver Nuggets are the real deal. Their top end can’t match that of the Lakers, but the Lakers haven’t been at their top end, with both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol playing well, since . . . since. . . .

“Actually, the Lakers have never been at their top end.

“The closest they ever came was Bynum’s breakout stretch in January, in which he averaged 26 points, 14 rebounds and 3.2 blocks, and Gasol averaged 15-6-1.

“It lasted five games before Bynum got hurt. It hasn’t been approached since, and now is beginning to look like the imagined end of an endless quest, like the Holy Grail.


“In the here and now, I expect this Lakers-Nuggets series to go seven games, if not longer, and I have no idea who’ll win.

“The Times regrets the error.”

Now that we have a more rounded perspective, meaning no matter what happens, I can say I predicted it, let’s reassess this series.

Actually, there’s all the difference in the world between projecting what will happen, and seeing what happens when the teams meet.

Not that what will happen in Game 1 will recur . . . the Lakers hope . . . except for the last 6 minutes 48 seconds when they outscored the Nuggets, 23-14, to win, 105-103.

As victories go, this was more like a cannonball aimed right between their eyes, which they ducked out of the way of.

This was particularly good timing with the Lakers already under fire for being “unprofessional,” with people saying they “virtually capitulated” in Game 4 in Houston.

And that was just from the Lakers themselves.

The first quote was from Phil Jackson, the second from Kobe Bryant.

If they hadn’t stolen Game 1, they would now be the ground zero in a nationwide maelstrom, questioning their hearts, courage, moral character, sex, etc.

If they had gone on to lose Game 2, too, people would have gotten personal.

All this still remains possible. If they don’t want to burn in media hell, they’ll need more than Bryant going for 40 points and guarding every Nuggets threat this side of David Thompson and Dan Issel.

Remember the Lakers’ inside game?

If you see it, please call the Lakers, c/o Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.

As anticipated, they were taller than the Nuggets but never actually got to experience a “height advantage.”

The 7-foot Bynum made two quick jumpers over 6-9 Kenyon Martin, who proceeded to make 15 points worth of mid-range floaters, getting Bynum in foul trouble and limiting him to 16 minutes.

Jackson now says Bynum has to be “a big guy that makes them feel small,” as opposed to being Wile E. Coyote, watching the Road Runner zip around him.

Of course, the Lakers are a work in progress -- and behind schedule -- with Jackson now holding his young players publicly accountable, as only he can.

“We had a little incident on Sunday [in Game 7 against Houston],” he said after Wednesday’s practice.

“Sasha [Vujacic] didn’t have a shot a couple times down the court when he was open, so he took a shot that was an airball, that was just something he wanted to do. And the guys on the bench lit him up. . . .

“On the other hand, we talked to our lead guards, that you have to continually understand that [Vujacic] is out there for that reason, to carry that threat.”

Actually, it was a spat between Vujacic and Jordan Farmar, the two youngest Lakers, their actual ages notwithstanding.

Also, the Lakers’ coaches would have liked to let both of them fight to the death, if it didn’t leave them short-handed.

Showing the importance of patience, the Lakers’ kindergarten, er, bench mob, then got them back in Tuesday’s game after the Nuggets went up by 10 points, making four three-pointers by halftime.

If you wonder why they didn’t sort this stuff out in March or April, when they had nothing else to do, the answer is . . . the answer is. . . .

I don’t know what the answer is. Let’s just say it’s something you don’t often see at this stage.

So, once again we’re waiting to see how the Laker Experiment goes, tra la, tra la.

As Nuggets Coach George Karl said before the opener, they’re just here to win one game and take it home before their wild fans in mile-high air, and tonight’s would suit them just as well.