2008-09 Game 59: Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers Game Thread

The Denver Nuggets face their current nemesis tonight as the Los Angeles Lakers roll into town.  With the best team in the west in town we needed to do something special.

Instead of a regular preview I have sought out the thoughts of some of the best Lakers bloggers on the internet.  The Nuggets are clinging to the third seed in the west and they have been receiving some good press lately about how they are ready to contend for the Western Conference title.  I wanted to find out if those people who follow the defending conference champs, who are also the favorites to go to the finals again, are buying the Nuggets as a threat.

The contributors are Brian Kamenetzky from the LA Times Lakers Blog , Jonathan from Lakers Nation and hitting cleanup will be Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold.  Look for some content from me on each of these sites at some point today as well.

The rambling setup and question from Roundball Mining Company:  When the playoff seedings were set last season and it was determined the Lakers were going to be playing the Nuggets in the first round it was almost as if the Lakers received a bye. Fans and media alike instantly began talking about the second round before the series even tipped off. The general consensus this season is the Nuggets are a much improved team, but the Lakers easily defeated Denver in their sole meeting since the Billups trade. In your opinion would the current version of the Nuggets be able to compete with the Lakers in a seven game series any better than they did last season? Do Lakers observers take the Nuggets seriously? Should they?

Brian Kamenetzky:  I don’t know if it’s a sagging economy grinding up newspapers and those who work for them like corn meal, global warming, or a potentially nuclear Iran, but these days it seems like everything has me worried. When it comes to the Western Conference, that includes the Nuggets. Denver ’08-’09 deserves to be taken seriously (certainly moreso than last year’s group, which had all the cohesion and unity of Fleetwood Mac), primarily because they’re (I almost said “again,” but I’m not entirely sure it’s ever happened) playing defense.  Fourth in opponents FG%, a respectable eighth in defensive efficiency.  Nene is making a big impact- his on/off court splits are impressive- and Chauncey is certainly an upgrade over A.I. in that regard.  On the other side they still can fill it up, except with Billups there’s more method and less madness.  Plus, Melo has been playing, at least in my intermittent viewing, a more complete floor game.

That said, I don’t think Denver is one of the two teams in the W.C. that could knock off LA in the playoffs, especially if the Lakers have Bynum back.  (My list is comprised of the Spurs and a newly healthy Jazz squad. With AK47 and Boozer back, they’re scary, and create some interesting matchup issues for the Lakers.)  The Nuggs are in that second tier with Houston and Portland. I admit, though, my view could still be colored by biases towards previous incarnations of the team.  Those can be hard to shake.  I’d say that’s a pretty common thing across the media, and certainly among fans.  Denver’s current winning percentage isn’t light years ahead of last year’s pace, but the team’s ability to compete in the postseason is much stronger and they probably don’t get the respect they deserve.

In fact, you’ve inspired me with your question.  Unless you tell me different, I’ll start adding “…and don’t sleep on Denver” to my Western Conference evaluations.   

RMC:  In your opinion would the current version of the Nuggets be able to compete with the Lakers in a seven game series any better than they did last season?

Jonathan:  Potentially this Nuggets team could be a tougher match up this year than last year, but I’m not entirely sure about that. 

A healthy Nene has done wonders for your interior D, and that was probably where the Lakers most took advantage of the Nuggets in the playoffs. I mean, God bless Marcus Camby and all, but Nene and K-Mart are doing a much better job of.. you know.. playing defense.

However, that doesn’t take into account what the Lakers were able to do defensively in the playoffs last year, and have continued to do this year. 

Last year Luke Walton and Vlad Radmanovic were able to do a much better job on Melo than we could have possibly hoped for, holding him to 36% shooting. This year he’s shooting an even more abmysal 29%(!). in two losses, he’s shot 5-15, and 5-19. For the Nuggets to have a shot at beating the Lakers in a 7-game series, he’ll have to play a lot better than that.

RMC:  Do Lakers observers take the Nuggets seriously? 

Jonathan:  I don’t think so. Lakers fans are an arrogant bunch to start out with, so I doubt any of them/us really consider the Nuggets a threat at this point.

Also of note, Derek Fisher does a lot better guarding bigger point guards like D-Will, J-Kidd and Billups, and so Lakers fans really weren’t too concerned by AI leaving in that trade (let’s all stop and laugh at the Pistons for a moment =D).

RMC:  Should they?

Jonathan:  I think so. Billups on Kobe is a lot more plausible than K-Mart on Kobe, that’s for sure. This year’s Nuggets are better than last year’s Nuggets, but at the same time, this year’s are better than last years Lakers as well. I wouldn’t put too much stock into Denver’s Billups Era loss, as we had Bynum then and it doesn’t look like we’ll have him for this playoff run either. Truely, the game on the 27th will be a more accurate reflection of how these two teams match up.

I expect that a 7-game series would ultimately end with the Lakers being victorious, but it wouldn’t be considered a bye.. not anymore.

RMC:  Can the Nuggets compete with the Lakers and do Lakers observers/fans take the Nuggets seriously?

Kurt:  There are two questions in there that get different answers. Yes, this Nuggets team can compete much better with the Lakers than last year’s version, and the Lakers had better take them seriously. With Billups at the point this just appears to be a smarter, more controlled team that plays better defense, picks its spots and attacks mismatches better, not to mention can shoot the three ball better. The pushing of the pace last year seemed to lead to almost reckless play, now things appear more steady. That is why if the Lakers and Nuggets were to meet this year it would be in the second round, the Nuggets are a better that nobody wants in the first round. I will add, I don’t think there is a team in the West that can beat a healthy Lakers squad, they are too talented and too deep, not to mention they can play good defense when they want to. But certainly a series between these team’s this year would be more competitive.

However, to your second question, I don’t think most casual Lakers fans and observers think of the Nuggets differently than last year. I think for much of the fan base the expectations would be a sweep going in, and some media members would happily feed into that. But the Nuggets will change that perception this playoffs, both for Lakers fans and anyone thinking that league wide. They are a legitimately good team and people will get to know that.

Prior to the first matchup between these two teams with Chauncey Billups leading the way for Denver I was very excited.  After the game I was much less so.  Due to the Nuggets poor play as of late coupled with their inability to defeat the Lakers I have already marked this game down as a loss.  Any assistance Denver hoped to get from Phoenix did not materialize as the Suns were not able to challenge the Lakers when they played last night in Los Angeles.  The Lakers were not overly taxed and the fact that the Lakers are playing on the second night of a back to back set will probably not be a factor.

Right now the most recent news we have on whether or not Nene will play is a quote from George Karl provided by Chris Tomasson, “there’s a chance he will play.”  Check out the article to see what Lakers players are saying about the Nuggets and whether or not they have closed the gap between the two teams.

Update:  As Stumbleweed told us in the comments, Benjamin Hochman from the Denver Post is reporting Nene will play, but he will come off the bench leaving Petro as the starter.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:   Game 3 – Den 97 LAL 104 | Game 13 - Den 90 LAL 104

Featured Blogs:  Forum Blue & Gold | Lakers Blog | Lakers Nation 

  • Stumbleweed

    For what it’s worth, last night at the Nuggets “6th Man Jam”, Nene said unequivocally “I will play tomorrow”. Of course he’s not the team doctor, but he was feeling good and seemed totally confident in that response, so let’s hope for the best in that regard… because we absolutely need him to have a chance to win this game.

    Also, JR’s reponse when I said, “You need more burn” was a resigned “I wish”… that makes two (million) of us.

  • Josh Hopp

    What a great article, thanks for that. It is so great to hear some respect for what we have done (can I say we?) this season. One thing I thought was that K-Mart actually didn’t do a bad job on Kobe in the playoffs, and I certainly don’t know if Billups is a better matchup; he is smaller, slower, and devoid of any degree of atheleticm.

  • Josh Hopp

    …athleticism.

  • Josh Hopp

    If anyone wants a great stream try http://dwert.tk

  • Josh Hopp

    Nene isn’t starting, unclear if he’ll come off the bench for Petro

  • Josh Hopp

    3 very quick fouls on petro. nene forced in

  • Josh Hopp

    we are in the penalty with 6:40 left

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I think the Nuggets are playing pretty solid. Good thing the Lakers are not a big pick and roll team. I cannot say I am impressed with the officiating so far. That call on Nene against Gasol a few minutes ago was absolutely horrible.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I wonder if there are any Nuggets fans at the game?

  • UnarmingMermaid

    wow! Refs are going to make sure the Lakers win this one.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    NBA can’t have their media darlings losing to the lowly Thuggets.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The Nuggets are trying to run, which is nice for a change.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Alright…I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a homer; however, it really feels like the refs have treated us unfairly pretty much since the All-Star break. Is this in my head? Or do you guys think so too?

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Nuggets are standing on the shot and giving up too many rebounds.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Hey Mermaid, I think tonight has been a joke. As far as the past few games, I do not think the Nuggets have been treated unfairly. I definitely think the more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the doubt and the Nuggets have not been the more aggressive team for most of the minutes since the all-star break.

  • harris

    this crowd is disgusting. how are we supposed to have home-court advantage? they should screen fans at the entrance

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    When Denver attacks the basket, they score, when they stand around and shoot jumpers, they do not. On that three by Kleiza, he had a wide open lane to cut to the rim, but stayed outside the three point line for the kick out pass and he missed the shot. They need to change their mentality.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Nuggets have raised their game the past couple of minutes. They are playing great. J.R. is playing great…long range three…money.

  • Josh Hopp

    What with his regular episodes of sucking it’s easy to forget that J.R can really fill it up

  • UnarmingMermaid

    LET’S GO…NUG-GETS!!!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Since Kobe left the game the officiating has been much more balanced. Interesting…

  • UnarmingMermaid

    wow…they’re on pace to get 414 offensive boards.

  • Josh Hopp

    KLIEZA WHEN WILL YOU HIT A SHOT

  • UnarmingMermaid

    why can’t we make WIDE OPEN 3s?

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The game turned when Birdzilla entered the game.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The question will be can the Nuggets match Kobe’s will the rest of the night.

    Please stop shooting threes every time you touch the ball LK.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    LK has to take the wide open three when he has the look; however, he’s got to make them too.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    That goes for JR as well.

  • Josh Hopp

    I agree, he is in the team for his shooting so either take the shot until you miss enough to get thrown the f*** off the squad for sucking so much or hit the damn thing

  • UnarmingMermaid

    What the hell is up with our free throw shooting lately?

  • UnarmingMermaid

    I really would feel much better about the world if the Nugs could just be the Lakers tonight.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Oh man! Mr. Billups still has some wheels. wow.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    As long as Denver keeps looking inside for cutters they will have no problem scoring.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Great defensive possession by Denver, waited for Gasol to commit to his move and then doubled, almost stole the kick out and then rotated to cover the shooter. Beautiful.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Do you guys think the Nuggets know that rebounds are legal?

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Need to finish out this final minute strong!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    How confident is Kobe? Sees Kenyon Martin on him and takes him to the post. What other shooting guard in the NBA would do that? Of course he missed, but still.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Great defense doesn’t mean a damn thing if they get second and third chances every possession.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Alright…all in all a solid first half. Need to fix the rebounding and free throw shooting ASAP.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    It is time for everyone’s favorite feature, halftime stats!

    Pace Factor: 86.8 – Very slow for a Nuggets home game
    Defensive Efficiency: 92.2
    Offensive Efficiency: 106.0

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I will tell you why the ref called that foul on Melo. When he leaned back to avoid the contact it looked like he stuck his hips into Odom. Melo needs to either stand in or back off.

  • Josh Hopp

    man we SUCK coming out of the break

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Wow…what a horrendous way to come out of the half.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Lead vanished.

  • Josh Hopp

    nothing but bad jumpers

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    We need a good possession and Chauncey shoots a jumper.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Kobe kicks people in the face and they call a foul on the defender.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    Nice Billups!

  • Josh Hopp

    agggh this foul situation is bad.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    I feel overwhelming pessimism setting in.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Virtually no movement on offense. The need more than one person to be moving at the same time.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I am not sure why Karl is waiting to put Nene in. I guess he said he wants to keep his minutes down. I have no idea why though.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    By the way, AC only played 8 minutes in the first half.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    Liking the rebounding by Melo in this game as well as Billups’ layups…and now the 3 sweet!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I think the Nuggets are out of their malaise.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    I don’t think there’s anyway that Nene is close to 100%. As of two day ago they were saying that he’d be out for another week and a half. I think he willed himself into this game and Karl doesn’t want to push it.

    As I type, Chauncey with a big 3 and Birdzilla with a big block. Energy starting to change.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    JR is fucking terrible tonight.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    TWEET TWEET MFers!!!

  • Josh Hopp

    starting to get some momentum behind birdman

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    God I love the Birdman!!!!

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Does Kleiza know where he is?

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Why is JR still in this game? Has he made a shot? He’s certainly missed plenty.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Does Chauncey have all 66 of our points? I can’t remember anyone else scoring. Everyone else should have to sign their paychecks over to Chauncey for tonight’s game.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    J.R. and Kleiza are both on the no more threes tonight or else list. Actually they were on it a few attempts ago.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The way they started the third quarter I am elated to be up three at this point in the game.

  • Josh Hopp

    we have a chance to win this game but it will depend on whether we are prepared to take it to the line and hit free throws

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Well…the next twelve minutes will determine if this is a beer or whiskey night. I’m REALLY hoping for beer.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Chauncey has been good, but player of the game is Birdman.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    “Gasol got smacked in the face…That’s good” – Marlowe

    Laughing my ass off.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    BIRD BIRD BIRD BIRD!!!

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Agreed jeremy…Birdzilla has been huge!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Nene checking in the game.

  • Josh Hopp

    the announcers just said its “good” that Gasol got smacked in the face. pretty trashy thing to say

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Refs starting to let them play a bit…I like to see that.

  • Josh Hopp

    I am almost dreading the fact that we have a lead because now I will be disappointed if we lose. I did not expect a win at all and wouldn’t have minded much. portland won today so we want to keep them at fingernail’s legnth

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Nene sure looks okay.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    J.R. realized he was on the no more threes list and has been taking it to the rim.

  • Josh Hopp

    everythinggoodhappenswhenyouattacktherim

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Is JR actually making his free throws? Somebody pinch me.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Thank God that was just a delay of game and not a T on Melo.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    What happened to k-mart? Just resting him?

    • http://www.bing.com/ Eddi

      2twVM9 I’m not easily impressed. . . but that’s impressing me! :)

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I could see the ref overreacting and calling the T.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    “Kobe is complaining on virtually every play”…there’s a shocker.

  • Josh Hopp

    melo is in struggle city. he has been inconsistent offensively this year

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    NuggestandRockiesGirl, Birdman is playing so well they do not want to take him out.

  • Josh Hopp

    oh my god violation on the inbounds???? we simple hate having the lead

  • UnarmingMermaid

    I REALLY don’t like Carter! That’s the nicest way I can put it.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    Ah that’s all right then. I just am worried about Birdman and K-mart healthwise, I know they are both banged up.

  • Josh Hopp

    Odom Gasol and Fish in. Crunch time

  • UnarmingMermaid

    “Where would the Nuggets be if they hit some shots” – Hastings

    EXACTLY!!!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I have hope…

  • Josh Hopp

    JR !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    In completely unrelated news, Shaq has 42 against the Raptors on 20-24 shooting with over 4 minutes left. That is good for my fantasy team.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    Wow on Shaq and wow on Bird!

  • UnarmingMermaid

    wow! Shactus showing he still has some juice.

  • Josh Hopp

    oh man odom just brought us back to earth

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    I will say one thing for JR, he is the victim of a lot of Laker fouls.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    c’mon Nuggets…get it together!

  • Josh Hopp

    BILLUPS WHAT THE HELL

  • UnarmingMermaid

    I’m sorry but there is NO WAY the Nuggets get away with behaving like the Lakers are and not get a tech. Two sets of rules.

  • Josh Hopp

    haha “chauncey may have gotten away with a few steps but who’s counting among friends?”

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The unwritten rule in the NBA is you can take as many steps as you want as long as you are spinning. I have seen Wade take five before.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    yeah…if you can’t say anything else about these announcers they are definitely forthcoming.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Big FTs by Melo.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    It has been a while since Kobe has taken a shot hasn’t it?

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I checked out the chat at Forum Blue & Gold and they were all going nuts about having to listen to Marlowe and Hastings complain about the officiating. I guess they thought the Lakers should have been in the bonus after five minutes.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    That Kobe miss was huge. I feel confident.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Game over!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Let the egg be on my face for writing the Nuggets off for this game.

  • Josh Hopp

    HAHAHA YEAAAAH NUGS!! WOOO!!

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Is this real?

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    Go Nuggets and Thanks Birdman!!!!!!!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I think Birdman played about 20 straight minutes to close this game out. Amazing.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The Lakers lost to the Denver Nuggets. Boom! Roasted!

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    NUGGETS WIN!!!!!!!!!!

  • Josh Hopp

    good win everyone! till next time

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    And Rocky dancing on top of the basket=EXCELLENT!!!!

  • UnarmingMermaid

    Looks like it’s BEER for me tonight.

    Great…GREAT WIN by Birdzilla and the Denver Nuggets. Had fun in the thread…catch you all next time.

  • cessair

    How could some of you complain about JR tonight. He was excellent. His three point shooting was terrible, but otherwise he was the second best player tonight behind Anderson. +25 +/-, 22 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and no TOs. More importantly than all that though, he was primarily defending Kobe in a lot of the game, and did a really good job.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    I thought J.R. did play well tonight and as of late as he is playing a more complete game of basketball…better defense, some assists, and much better on his free throws tonight. A lot of the fouls the lakers encountered were as a result of him. Karl was very proud of him too, saying he was a “man” tonight. I thought he did a very good job guarding the physical Kobe Bryant. I mean yeah, he wasn’t hitting the 3′s, but he is showing people there is much more to him than that.

  • BeefySwats

    I can’t believe we won this game. I absolutely did not expect it and was very, very pleasantly surprised.

    Glad your prognostication was (for once) wrong, Jeremy.

    JR played stellar basketball, but for the second game in a row, Chris Andersen has stepped it up. 11 points, 12 rebounds, 7 blocks off the bench is mindbogglingly good. Those are starting C/PF numbers for a lot of teams in the NBA.

    Melo struggled scoring, but look at what he’s doing. His rebounding is higher than it’s ever been and he’s still scoring in double digits every game. I have noticed him boxing out more and being less a defensive sieve, and much more focused.

    Kleiza and Dahntay still suck. Trade them for someone. Anyone. And let Balkman have both of their minutes in the SG or second PF spot. Can you all imagine a lineup of Chauncey, Balkman, Nene, Melo, and Andersen? Scary good in the post.

    Wow, what a spirit lifter for the second half of the season. Dark times with those three losses – hard to overstate how big of a win this was for the Nuggets.

    Awesome. Can’t wait for the Pacers game on Sunday.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    I’d just like to remind you all…

    that we just handed the Lakers their f’ing asses.

    Word ‘em up!!! (I’m a product of the nineties).

    Seriously…are you kidding me?

    Just when I thought we had no chance…we proved we’re not the same team as in the past.

  • UnarmingMermaid

    The previous post was obviously after the aforementioned beers. ;-)