A few more game one thoughts as we prepare for game two:
- How nice was it to have a physical game played where neither coach was complaining about how the game was called in his postgame press conference. Yes, that is directed at you Byron Scott and Rick Carlisle.
- I have read in several places, including the Denver Post (although the article was by Anthony Cotton, not Hochman or Dempsey) that the Nuggets’ front line of Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen won the battle against their Lakers counterparts because they outscored them 37-26. I am not sure why Josh Powell’s four points do not count when adding up the scoring by the Lakers’ bigs, but whatever helps make your case. If that was winning the battle, I do not want to see what will happen if the Nuggets loose that matchup. Nene did not score a point in the second half, not that his 14 first half points did not count, and he pulled down only four defensive rebounds. To put that in perspective Pau Gasol had six offensive boards. The Nuggets’ bigs held their ground well, but to say they outplayed the Lakers’ big men is just wrong.
- Chauncey Billups said that he wished he could have received the inbounds pass when Denver inbounded the ball with 5.8 seconds left in the game. His direct quote was:
“They did a good job. I couldn’t get it.”
Following Chauncey’s second three pointer with 6.0 seconds remaining Carmelo was all over Kobe trying to deny him the ball, but Kobe ran directly to the inbounder to make sure he received the pass. On the play Chauncey was recounting the Lakers did not defend him any more vigorously than Melo did Kobe. The difference was Chauncey ran parallel to the baseline about ten feet away instead of running to the passer to make sure he could receive the ball.
- In the same quote he goes on to say that he wished he had either had the ball or told J.R. to shoot when it appeared the Lakers were going to foul him to get three free throws. It sounds nice, but nearly every referee in the world is going to call that foul on the floor no matter how quickly you get your shot up after they grab you. If you go into your shot too early, then they can layoff and just watch as you chuck a running 40 footer. The Lakers were not going to make the same mistake Antoine Wright made by fouling too early or too lightly.
- When you have to bring the ball up the floor in that situation and the other team has decided to foul, there is not much you can do.
- That brings me to another point. Denver ran out of timeouts at the end of the game. With 7:33 left in the fourth Carmelo was trapped along the sideline and instead of bouncing a pass between the defenders to Nene he held the ball and called a timeout. At the time my wife asked if that was a good idea and my response was that it was fine as long as they did not run out of timeouts at the end of the game. Well, it turned out to be a big decision by Carmelo. Picture how much different that final play could have been with Denver inbounding the ball from their end of the court with the recipient in position to shoot as opposed to having to bring it up the length of the floor.
- I am sick and tired of talking about the turnover on the inbounds play by Anthony Carter, but I thought one of the TNT analysts, I think it was Kenny Smith, made a good point about how Chauncey could have run into the backcourt to get the pass. If he keeps running and Carter leads him away from Ariza that would have been another way to prevent the turnover.
I have defended Karl’s decision to put Carter in the game, but I noticed just 20 seconds later with the Nuggets inbounding the ball in the same spot on the floor Birdman was in instead of Carter and Kenyon was the inbounder. It was a different situation with Denver down four and needing a three instead of down two and maybe that played a role in who was on the court, but it merits mentioning that Karl did not have AC out there.
- I am already sick and tired of the moron who always wears yellow and sits just to the right of the Lakers’ bench. He is constantly arguing correct calls like a child and stands up and claps his rolled up program. By wearing yellow he can make sure he is visible and show everyone how much of a fan he is. The guy drives me nuts.
That is enough of game one. It is funny how I can write so much about something that was so frustrating.
With game two on the horizon I could not sleep last night.
Despite being completely worn out I laid in bed for almost two hours before I nodded off. Game two is not necessarily a must win, should the Nuggets lose I can definitely see them winning both games in Denver and tying the series at two. However, if they go down 2-0 and have to win four of the remaining five games I do not see any way they win this series.
That being said, I think we see the Nuggets play their best all around game tonight and I even went so far as to predict a Nuggets victory. The one disclaimer I will make is if J.R. Smith is clearly limited by his calf strain, which I have still heard referred to as a knee injury in more than one place, it will require Carmelo and Chauncey to both have big nights.
Much of the analysis of game two centers around how Melo will surely not be able to score so easily and that bodes well for Los Angeles. I agree that Melo will not shoot 14-20 and 4-5 from downtown, but I will not be surprised to see him put up another 30 point game. He may have to work harder to get to the rim and not settle for so many jumpers, but he can score on this Lakers defense and on Kobe.
What was most impressive about Kobe’s offensive performance in game one was that he was able to do it while working so hard on defense. Even so, there were times, especially when he was guarding Chauncey, that Denver chose to go away from him. In game two, whoever Kobe is being guarded by must attack him and make him expend energy. He cannot carry this team on both ends of the floor over a seven game series.
Los Angeles can only get away with moving Kobe from guy to guy as long as players like AC and Dahntay are on the court who can be covered by Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar or Shannon Brown.
When it comes to keeping the Lakers off the offensive boards it will require a conscious effort by everyone on the floor. We talk about team defense, but seem to consider rebounding an individual effort. Rebounding is also a team skill and against a team like the Lakers requires all five players to do their part. The bigs must do a better job of clearing space, but that is easier said than done. Gasol in particular is very good at prepositioning himself for offensive rebounds before the defender realizes the shot is going up.
The guards need to either crash the lane if the shot is from the lane or get to the elbows if it is a longer shot so that they are in position to chase down a long rebound.
Other than the rebounding both Nene and Kenyon did a solid job on defense. They continually forced Gasol off the block and keeping him a little further out than he likes to operate. They did a lot of switching, which was fine as the Lakers did not look to post Bynum on Kenyon when the Nuggets did so. If L.A. decides to go at Martin when he switches onto Bynum, Denver will probably have to double him.
When it comes to double teams Denver would obviously prefer not to have to double anyone. However, they seemed like they were prepared to double Kobe after he put the ball on the floor and they showed some desire to have a guard come down to dig at Gasol in an effort to force him to pass.
When the Nuggets do double team they must be prepared to rotate. Gasol is an excellent passer and when Odom is in the game the Lakers have four players all capable of hitting three pointers on the floor at the same time.
Another way to keep the Lakers from getting open looks from behind the arc is to get back better in transition. On a couple of different occasions in the second half of game one Kenyon was stuck guarding Fisher in the corner. Of course, Kenyon wants to be ready to help on a drive or rebound so he stays as close to the lane as possible. The result is Fisher is left open and he made Denver pay.
Both team also need to do better at running when the opportunity presents itself. They combined for 14 fast break points in game one. I expect both teams to top that mark in game two. Of course, if Denver cannot garner any defensive boards they are not going to be able to run. That is another reason why limiting the Lakers’ offensive rebounds is so important.
I do believe the Nuggets will win. I honestly had a bad feeling about game one. I was excited before the game, but not the kind of excited you are before opening a birthday present. It was the kind of excited you get when you have to line up to run suicides for conditioning. That is bad excited.
For game two I feel a little more as if I am going to get a present tonight and less like I am going to be sprinting for a good 20 minutes.
Take this with you: Denver was able to get Bynum in foul trouble because they were not afraid to attack him. J.R. and Melo both drew fouls by going right at him. They will need to continue to do so tonight. Nene fouled out in game one and he must do a better job of avoiding contact when he is covering the pick and roll. He uses his hips too much to slow down the ball handler and referees will call that every time.
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