2008-09 Game 80: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Game Thread

If Denver wins two of their final three games they will clinch the second seed in the Western Conference no matter what the Spurs, Rockets or Blazers do.  A win tonight in Los Angeles would not only tie the franchise record for wins in a single season it would more importantly set the Nuggets up to clinch the second seed and the division title on Monday at home against the Kings (although we all remember what happened the last time Denver played Sacramento).

A loss in Los Angeles would open the door to a potentially frustrating finish.  Of course a winner take all battle in Portland on the last night of the season would be intense, but a win over the Lakers would be sweet.  Plus a loss against the Lakers will open the door to a few days of freaking out over how bad it would suck to lose a two and a half game lead with four to play. 

Despite a four game winning streak the Lakers are not playing at peak efficiency.  They lost back to back games at Charlotte and Atlanta to close out March and have played tight games against the Bucks and Clippers since then.  The Lakers should be motivated to play well seeing as how their last game against the Nuggets was an embarrassing loss that saw the Lakers score a paltry 79 points. 

The Nuggets may be going after the second seed in the west, but the Lakers are chasing a larger goal too and they have a much more scant margin for error that the Nuggets do.  Los Angeles is a game behind the Cavs for the top record in the NBA and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Lakers area game behind Cleveland, but own the tie breaker having swept the season series against the Cavs. 

The other big story heading into this game is the return of Andrew Bynum.  Phil Jackson has said that Bynum will probably start immediately upon his return.  That could be a good thing for the Nuggets as he will undoubtedly be rusty.  However, we all know the saying that size never has a bad day.  Whether he is rusty or not he is still a seven foot tall 285 pound force on the court.

From the Nuggets’ standpoint Kenyon Martin is a game time decision with his strained rib cage, but whether or not Kenyon plays is not the Nuggets’ biggest problem.  Denver has to hope that Carmelo can shake his seven game long slump against the Lakers.  During the four game playoff series against LA last season Carmelo shot 32 of 88 for a disastrous 36.3%.  He has somehow managed to top that performance this season shooting 14 for 51 in the three games against the Lakers this season which equates to 27.5%.  Overall in his last seven games against the Lakers Melo has only made 46 of his 139 attempts equaling a shooting percentage of 33.1%. 

The Lakers do a great job of pressuring Melo and then providing help as a team.  It is comical to think of players like Vlad Radmanovic (now with Charlotte) and Luke Walton frustrating Melo, but they have thanks to the team concept the Lakers’ utilize to slow Melo down.  Radmanovic and Walton will get right up under Carmelo which takes away his jumper and his jab step and shoot midrange game.  When Melo drives, they ride him into a position where they know help is waiting.  It is simple, but effective and also somewhat illegal.  The Lakers get away with a lot of contact on Melo when he drives and I am sure the Nuggets have sent footage of it to the league.  If the refs continue to allow it, Melo will have his work cut out for him.  Instead of forcing bad shots Melo needs to use the swarming defense against the Lakers and look to earn easy shots for his teammates. 

As we saw in the playoffs last season it does not matter who steps up for Denver, J.R. and Kleiza both had a big series against the Lakers, as long as Melo struggles like that against LA Denver will have a difficult time beating them. 

Denver has lost five straight games in Los Angeles against the Lakers, which could be worse, but is not encouraging.  They are coming off a poor defensive performance against the Thunder and are playing in the second night of a back to back set for the last time this season.  They must dig deep and play a great all around game.  Should they lose it will not eliminate them from earning the second seed or winning the division, but it sure opens the door to scenarios we would rather not discuss.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes (if this link is still showing the notes for the Thunder game when you access it, check back later as it will switch to the Lakers game soon)

Previous Matchups:   Game 3 – Den 97 LAL 104 | Game 13 – Den 90 LAL 104 | Game 59 – Den 90 LAL 79

Featured Blogs:  Forum Blue and Gold | Lakers Blog | The Lakers Nation

Take this with you:  Carmelo decided to give the Lakers some bulletin board material through Chris Tomasson of InDenverTimes.com. 

“When I look at the West, I don’t really see that one dominant team,’’ said Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. “Everybody says the Lakers. Yeah, the Lakers are pretty good. But I don’t really see that one team that you say is going to win the West. I think it’s pretty much even now.’’

Real nice Melo.  I will need to talk to Chris and see if he can sit on quotes like that in the future.

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  • Josh Hopp

    I have no problem with Melo talking a little trash as long as he can back it up by beating the snot out of the Los Angeles Lakers in their Staples Center tommorrow night. Let’s go Nuggets!

  • BeefySwats

    Honestly? I’m more worreid about Carmelo picking up a technical (which seems likely) than losing this game. I think we win against the Kings then @ Blazers to close out the season, but if Melo gets another T, he’s only one away from suspension territory.

    GO NUGGETS!

  • CCH

    I’m really thinking Nene is gonna punish Bynum early. Melo is bound to break out against the lakers let’s hope it’s tonight.

  • snafuthai

    Hahaha, did you catch this quote from Kurt at FB&G…”The only problem for the Nuggets tonight — the Lakers don’t live and die off the pick and roll.” I really really hope that NBA teams are thinking the same way and are being intimated by our thoroughly mediocre pick and roll defense. I also have no idea how this viewpoint came to pass when we still have Carmelo “Trying to Move as Little as Possible While Playing D” Anthony and JR “Switch Switch Switch” Smith.

    Also, I am incredibly fucking excited for the game tonight. GO NUGGETS!!!!

  • runningdonut

    What a huge game. Go Nugs

  • Josh Hopp

    Sorry to be tardy to the party again. Down 9 hey. Could be worse. How have we been playing?

  • RyanSev23

    Man is it difficult to watch Kleiza play. He absolutely kills the Nuggets. I know he has a few games to fool everyone now and then but he is a terrible basketball player. It is insane how much time he is getting in this game.

  • herewereyouwish

    He’s logging more minutes than JR, which makes no sense to me. A couple strong rebounds, but doing terribly on defense. We just look flat.

  • Josh Hopp

    Bad timing on that comment there Ryan :-)

  • Josh Hopp

    Wooooooo!! Within 3!

  • herewereyouwish

    JR!!!

  • Josh Hopp

    JR SMITH! OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS! GAME ON NUGGETS!

  • snafuthai

    Really proud of the way the Nugs are playing despite not getting many calls (and Steve Javie just pissing all over Nene) and playin in hostile territory.

    Let’s get this done baby!

  • jakester

    Oh my, JR.

    Now, Kobe’s gonna start turning it on. It remains to be seen if we’re willing to put forth the effort to mitigate that, and if the Lakers have the ability to stop a motivated Melo, a sharp JR, and a confident Chauncey.

  • jakester

    ouch, Bynum is playing well on O. But so is Melo – GREAT dish to Petro and GREAT finishing DUNK!

  • herewereyouwish

    Did Nene wrong the ref’s before the game? Did he insult Steve Javie’s mother? I don’t get it…

  • Josh Hopp

    AARGGH NUGS no easy baskets

  • Josh Hopp

    Nene is 3-10 from the field. He is having trouble finishing after good position, which usually he has no trouble doing.

  • Josh Hopp

    well this sucks.

  • herewereyouwish

    Boy I may not be the biggest Kleiza fan, but I’d take him over Walton any day.

  • Josh Hopp

    I’m over Balkman

  • jakester

    Balkman didn’t touch Kobe on that 3-point play. Did. Not. Touch. Kobe.

  • Josh Hopp

    REBOUNDS FOR GODS SAKE

  • herewereyouwish

    7 point game. Too bad the quarter is ending right now, we’ve got some momentum for the first time since that 12-0 run

  • Josh Hopp

    Down 7. Come on Nuggets please let us win this. We have worked so hard for this, we deserve it

  • jakester

    Okay, a cruddy quarter, didn’t really hustle that much, some mediocre calls and no threes even on decent looks – and only a 7 point deficit. This is one good run away from a tie game.

  • Kay

    This better be a W because I stayed up way passed my “exam tomorrow” bed time

  • Josh Hopp

    This foul situation is pretty much a disaster. I don’t know what we will do when they pile up more.

  • jakester

    Oh I forgot to mention, Chauncey was mugged on that drive! Amazing how a forearm to both hands manages to get “all ball”…

  • Josh Hopp

    Smith you idiot. He is playing like he thinks he can be Kobe

  • Josh Hopp

    5 on melo. call a time out karl

  • Kay

    Oh Lord, 5th for Melo and J.R. is going hoop crazy
    This will be a great 9 minutes

  • Josh Hopp

    bedtime Kay

  • king_couttsy

    Funny how we can’t get a call, yet we go near them and the whistle blows…

    Oh, and LK – get off the farking court…

  • herewereyouwish
  • Kay

    Air ball Melo? Really?

  • herewereyouwish

    Why is Melo not in?

  • jakester

    Kobe is a supremely talented player and aggressive defender who nonetheless has yet to commit a foul this game.

  • king_couttsy

    Funny that… No fouls on Kobe… Amazing… The perfect defensive game by Kobe…

  • BeefySwats

    Good effort by the Nugs tonight. They were nervous at the start and it was obvious to everyone, but they fought back and made it a close one up to the fourth.

    Think about it.

    – Missing probably our top defender in Kenyon Martin
    – Second night of a back to back
    – Second night of a back to back when having to travel and play away
    – Second night of a back to back and having to travel and play away against arguably the best team in the league
    – Late start
    – Nationally televised game

    Tough. DJs fouls were absolutely critical by putting the NUggets in the penalty with almost 7 minutes still to play in the 3rd and Nene was just getting bullied by Bynum in the post.

    Anyway. No need to think the sky is falling, Denver tried hard and came up short. Next up is the Kings and closing out at Portland.

    GO NUGGETS!

  • runningdonut

    I thought we played hard but not smart enough to win. Birdman was really active, but he jumps at every head fake or anytime his man even looks at the rim, giving up a lot of open shots and offensive rebounds.

    Melo seemed like he was having a good game and let the foul trouble get to him. Bynum was tough on Nene, but he bounced back to have a decent game. The effort was not bad but quite simply we don’t play defense for all 48 minutes. I really want to see us hold a good team under 100 before the playoffs. This was a game we could have definitely used Kenyon, I hope he’s 100 percent for the playoffs.

  • Stumbleweed

    When fucking Dahntay got those 3 fouls in a row I knew we were screwed… we had already sent them to the line 21 times at the half and he does that shit? Ugh, hatehatehate. Come on George, it’s over…

    Anyway, yeah, I was hoping we would pull this off, but without K-Mart, their bigs were just entirely too much. Odom hardly did anything in short minutes, but getting 43 points and 26 boards from your starting PF and C is enough to win most games…

  • king_couttsy

    The more I think about it, the more I’m actually comfortable with the performance.

    Someone mentioned K-Mart missing – he certainly helps on the boards more than Petro does.. Assuming that we don’t let them get the jump on us, and put some more pressure on Gasol early in the game, given he had what – 11 point and 9 boards in the first quarter?? I’m comfortable that we can hold our own. As also noted, when Kobe Bryant (an agressive on-ball defender) doesn’t pick up a single damned foul for the game, I’m sure that once he gets into our House, he’s picked up at least 3-4..