2008-09 Game 80: Denver Nuggets 102 – Los Angeles Lakers 116

Box Score | Highlights

I intended to post some very insightful and timely comments on the Denver Nuggets 116-102 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.  Well, as you are aware it is Sunday now and anything I have to say will not be very timely, but they have not played since then so I still have time to meet my responsibilities as a Nuggets blogger.

While the Nuggets lost and the game was not particularly close by the time the final bell sounded, I thought Denver played a decent game.  There were prolonged stretches where they outplayed the Lakers.  Unfortunately the Lakers had a couple more dominant stretches than Denver did and they resulted in a double digit loss for Denver.

Kobe had a nice night on offense in both quantity and quality as he posted a very efficient 33 point outing.  Even with the Nuggets aggressively jumping Kobe off of screens and throwing every swingman on the team at him defensively he still managed to light them up.  That is Kobe.  When you load up against him and he still has a high efficiency outing you are in trouble.  When you pay that much attention to one player it weakens your ability to defend everyone else.  While Kobe was too much to handle the player that really killed Denver was Pau Gasol.

Gasol killed the Nuggets in numerous ways.  Straight post ups, in transition and especially on the offensive glass.  Gasol pulled down 11 offensive boards on his own, which according to Basketball Reference only Al Jefferson and Erik Dampier have had better nights on the offensive glass this season with 12. 

I wish I could pin the Nuggets weakness on the defensive boards on the absence of Kenyon Martin, but I think that would be disingenuous.  With the return of Andrew Bynum the Lakers have an imposing pair of seven footers and Kenyon struggles to defend players of that height.  Plus it was the Nuggets’ defensive scheme that left Gasol open for so many offensive caroms.  When he was not open because of Denver’s help and rotations he was left alone by Chris Andersen or Johan Petro who both seemed to try to block every shot the Lakers hoisted up.

On the other end of the floor I found it interesting that the Lakers chose to have Trevor Ariza cover Carmelo Anthony one on one.  As a result of the use of Ariza, Melo was able to take advantage of his midrange game and he was also able to get into the paint easier.  The Lakers were ready to help, but not quite so on their toes as when Melo was covered by Walton or Radmanovic.

Additional Game 80 Nuggets

  • For some reason Dahntay Jones did not seem too worried about Kobe early in the game.  On one early possession Jones lost track of Kobe twice and Kobe hit his first shot, a three pointer, as Jones stood and watched him catch and shoot right in front of him.  Maybe Jones did not read the entire pregame scouting report on that Brant guy.
  • On a few occasions the Nuggets did run a switching scheme that bordered on a 2-3 zone.  The idea was to try to keep Birdman as close to under the rim as possible and the rest of the defense were to cover the players cutting to the perimeter.  On more than one possession they utilized this style of defense to stymie the Lakers, but it is not a system that can be utilized for more than a few possessions at a time.
  • The run that really killed the Nuggets chances came in the third quarter when the Nuggets became completely perimeter oriented.  Melo scored on a nice three point play to draw the Nuggets to within a single point at 70-69 and Phil Jackson, who rarely calls timeouts, called a timeout.  The Lakers came out of the timeout and rattled off an eight to nothing run.  George Karl called a timeout of his own and the Lakers followed it up with four more points.  A one point game quickly became a thirteen point spread.  Here are the shots the Nuggets attempted during that 12-0 run:  Nene missed layup, Billups missed three pointer, Melo missed three pointer, Billups missed three pointer, following the timeout called by Karl where I suspect he encouraged them to get to the rim J.R. missed a 20 foot jumper and to close it out J.R. missed a three pointer.  It does not get much more perimeter than that.
  • The Kamenetzky Brothers over at the LA Times Lakers Blog have put together a very good recap of the game, including the Nuggets’ final fade into oblivion in the fourth quarter.  They lay down the big picture view of why many NBA observers do not take the Nuggets seriously despite the fact that they are currently second in the west.  There is also a link there to a podcast with Chris Brousard from ESPN.com where they discuss the Nuggets and their faults.  I encourage you to check it out.
  • Oh by the way, the Lakers shot 17 more free throws for the game than the Nuggets did, but I have a difficult time complaining about that.  The Lakers did get the benefit of the doubt more often than Denver did, but L.A. was simply more assertive than the Nuggets were with the ball and that is a big reason why there was such a disparity.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  96.5

Defensive Efficiency:  120.2 – They did hold the Lakers to 42.5% shooting, if only they could have collected a few more defensive rebounds.

Offensive Efficiency:  105.7 – Not good enough against a top notch squad.

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  • BeefySwats

    Hey Jeremy,

    Good recap (if a *tad* late ;) ). I agree about the FT differential, that doesn’t make or break a game. I thought the offensive rebounding killed us in that game. So often LA would take a 3, miss, and Pau would be right there vacuuming up the board. We simply did not box out.

    Nene also looked timid vs. Bynum. With Bynum and Gasol’s post-scoring ability, Andersen, Nene and Petro HAVE to front them. If they’re within 5-6 feet of the basket and get the ball in the post they are going to score. And while I love Nene’s play in the paint most nights, he was just getting pushed around.

    I honestly though Petro was our most effective post player that game.

    Anyway, tonight is a huge game, even if it is against “the worst team in the league”. Because Houston and Portland are now on winning streaks, Denver needs to win this game in order to clinch the NW. Additionally, in order to hold on to the #2 seed, Denver needs to win this game and probably also the game in Houston. While I would be ok with the 3 seed, if we preserve the 2 we get Dallas whom we’ve dominated all season.

    That said…GO NUGGETS!

    One final reminder: if you need an example of how we’ve handled the Kings in the past, click here –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbveol9wJSs

    :D

  • Othe33

    You’ve made some great points, Jeremy.

    I love the Bird as much as the next Nuggs fan, but he needs to chill out on coming from the weak side to try to block every shot. He’s leaving the board wide open, and it’s just poor team defense. Helping out is one thing…leaving a block-out assignment is a detriment to the team.

    One thing that should be pointed out is how the Blazers benefited from the schedule last week. The Lakers that showed up here in Portland were exhausted – Kobe may have been statistically efficient in beating Denver in LA, but he was totally spent in the 4th quarter and unable to be himself against a game Portland team. While I would never officially condone giving a team a game, if we had allowed the Lakers an easier victory on Thursday, they would have likely beaten Portland on Friday and secured the Division for the Nuggets.

    Tonight is a must-win. We may have dominated the Kings historically, but that loss in Sacramento last month still tastes sour in my throat. Blow this team out, break hearts in Portland on Wednesday, and charge in to the playoffs with our hair on fire – that’s what I want to see from my Nuggets.