Two of the most important keys to this series are how much Andrew Bynum can play and how well Carmelo Anthony handles the Lakers’ defensive scheme that has given him fits in the past.
When I talk about Bynum being a key to this series I am not saying he is going to average 18 points and 11 rebounds. What I mean is his presence makes Pau Gasol a much better player. With Bynum in the game Gasol obviously plays power forward and that means Kenyon Martin has to cover him. Without Bynum on the floor Pau will play center and thus Denver can use Nene or Chris Andersen, who at both much closer to his length and weight than Kenyon is, to check him.
I have put together some video clips to show both how difficult Bynum and Gasol can make things on Denver and how much better the Nuggets matchup with Gasol with Bynum on the bench. It does not matter if it is due to ineffectiveness or foul trouble, Denver needs Bynum off the court.
Moving on to Carmelo, everyone knows by now what a difficult time he has had scoring against the Lakers. Despite the fact he has been guarded by players like Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic he has been taken out of his game. The reason is the Lakers’ scheme.
Carmelo has almost exclusively received the ball on the left or right wing. Whoever is defending Melo will crowd him and wall off the middle and force him to drive to the baseline. As soon as Carmelo catches the ball they pre-rotate help over to the ball side block. This defense takes away Melo’s jumper because the on the ball defender is not worried about the drive. He knows he already has help. The help defender does not worry about Carmelo’s ability to shoot, he is only concerned about keeping Melo from getting to the rim.
In the past Carmelo has either forced a contested jumper, dribbled away from the pressure or driven into the teeth of the defense. Looking at the clips from game 80 we can see he might have figured out how to combat this scheme.
During this game Carmelo began getting the ball closer to the middle of the floor making the pre-rotated helper less of a factor. That allowed him to get to the rim and finish. Also, he used his passing ability to earn his teammates better shots. The way Carmelo has played so far this postseason leads me to believe he will continue to use his ability to pass as frequently as his ability to score. When he does so he is a much more dangerous player and the Nuggets are a much better team.
I also recommend looking back at my Film Room segment on how the Nuggets defended the Lakers in their game 59 victory.