A few more game one thoughts as we prepare for game two:
“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.
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.