The day is coming to an end and I am once again tardy in posting my additional nuggets so I am just going to toss out what I have.
- One concern we had about the Nuggets heading into the 2009 playoffs was their propensity to turn the ball over. Not only have the Nuggets successfully negated that disadvantage, hanging onto the ball has become a major strength for this team. Denver had four single digit turnover games in the regular season. After last night’s six turnover effort against the Lakers, their fourteenth postseason game, they have already matched that total. Denver was in the middle of the pack with a +.01 turnover differential in the regular season. In the playoffs they have a +3.9 turnover differential, which is by far the best out of the 16 playoff teams. Atlanta is a distant second with a +1.5.
- In the first half J.R. did a great job setting up his teammates with easy shots. Smith totaled four assists, all in the second quarter and all four resulted in dunks. J.R. Smith has had 16 assists in the four games of the Western Conference Finals and 12 of those 16 assists have resulted in either layups or dunks. That is efficient offense. Before the series I said Smith was capable of playing the role of Aaron Brooks for the Nuggets and he has certainly been able to breakdown the Lakers’ defense and create havoc in the lane.
- Nene clearly did not want to be in foul trouble yet again and he repeatedly allowed Gasol and Bynum to back him down without so much as a retaliatory bump or swipe at the ball. I guess it worked as Nene did end his string of six straight games with at least four fouls including five out of six games with at least five fouls, although I do not think the Nuggets can win in Los Angeles with Nene playing so passively on the defensive end.
- The Lakers shot 15-50 on threes in the two games in Denver. Maybe if Fisher and Vujacic stopped popping threes and started feeding Gasol the ball in the post L.A. would be in better shape after four games.
- Jeff Van Gundy remarked how surprised he was at J.R.’s vision and passing ability. I think it is great that J.R. is being discovered by many basketball fans. J.R. deserve credit for playing hard enough on defense to earn the minutes he receives on the court and George Karl deserves credit for allowing J.R. the freedom to make mistakes. He will turn the ball over from time to time, but no Nugget can get his teammates easy shots like J.R. can.
- I think one of the signs of a good team is the ability to hang around even when you are being outplayed. The Nuggets seem to have been the better team in games one, three and four only to have a very difficult time shaking free of L.A. There have been many instances where I have looked at the score and thought to myself, “Denver should be up by at least X, but they are only up Y” with ‘X’ being ten to 20 points and ‘Y’ four to eight points.
- I like how early in the game Kenyon Martin missed a jumper so badly that it banked in. Then a couple of possessions later takes the same shot undoubtedly thinking how he just made that shot so he has to shoot it again. Needless to say the second one missed badly as well, just not badly enough to be as successful as the first one.
- We have talked about how the Nuggets dominated the rebounding battle, but the next few statistics will show how completely they dominated the paint. The Lakers were 3-3 on dunks, but only 5-14 on layups. Denver on the other hand went 10-10 on dunks and 11-24 on layups. Denver attempted twice as many layups and dunks as the Lakers did, 34-17.
- It seems to me that every game the Nuggets best defender against Kobe is someone different. In game one it was Carmelo. Game two it was either Carmelo or J.R. Smith. In game three Dahntay Jones did a very good job of hounding Bryant in his limited minutes. Last night it was Chauncey who did the best. He forced Kobe into 0-7 shooting while he was on him and even forced Kobe to pass the ball once. Not only did Chauncey force Kobe into some poor shooting, he did not foul him once.
- Carmelo did miss his first nine shots, but it was good that they were mostly good shots. Out of his first nine shots five were jumpers and four were at the rim. There was another shot that did not count because he was fouled. Melo’s first made shot was a dunk so out of his first 11 scoring opportunities six were at the rim, the result of trying to go to the rim. I can live with that, especially now that we know he was experiencing a queasy stomach that was bad enough he was reportedly throwing up just before game time and he required a halftime IV.
- The postgame press conferences were fun as Phil Jackson got a little testy at a reporter who pestered him about his displeasure at his team’s effort. Sadly, the segment is not included in the NBA’s slimmed down version of his Q and A, but you can read the article by T.J. Simmers here. George Karl’s was equally as fun, though not as testy. The last question was if Karl appreciated the irony of Chauncey stealing an inbounds pass from Lamar Odom to pretty much seal the game as it put Denver up 107-94 with 2:47 left. Karl talked about the play and then asked why the reported thought there was irony with the play. The reporter reminded him of the Nuggets’ issues inbounding the ball in games one and three. I am not sure if Karl was messing with him or if he actually did not catch what the reporter was getting at, his response seemed legitimate, but when the reporter mentioned the two botched inbounds plays by Denver Karl chuckled and stood up announcing the end of the press conference. Unfortunately NBA.com’s edit does not include that exchange either.
- Back in the day MTV used to run a Beavis and Butthead special during halftime of the Super Bowl. I flipped over to WWE Monday Night Raw thinking Vince McMahon, the king of marketing, would put on something connected to the game during the break with the hopes of sucking in some of game four viewers. I was highly disappointed that all I got was some big dunce wrestling in a Baron Davis Clippers jersey.
- The NBA has ruled Dahntay’s trip of Kobe Bryant a Flagrant 1. I do not a problem with the league’s decision. Some Nuggets fans I am sure will complain that it is unfair to call a play a flagrant when it was not called a foul during the game, but I find little conviction there. Just because the referees missed it, watching live it was difficult to tell if the trip was deliberate, does not mean there are no repercussions for such a play.
Tripping is not on the list of wildly dangerous plays, but if it is treated as just another foul, or no call, you could see that play becoming a more frequent tactic and it would be only a matter of time before someone hurt an ankle, foot or broke their wrist on the landing.
That flagrant foul point raises Jones’ total to three so he will be suspended for one game after his next flagrant foul.
- In other flagrant foul news the NBA has rescinded the Flagrant 1 that Andrew Bynum received after his hard foul on Chris Andersen (see link above). I agree with that call as well. Bynum made some contact with Birdman’s head, but he was clearly (forcefully) swiping down at the ball. I did not think it should have been a flagrant in the first place.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 93.8
Defensive Efficiency: 107.7 – Best rating since game one against Dallas.
Offensive Efficiency: 127.9 – Very good, but not even one of their top three performances of the playoffs.
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I was going to leave you with embedded video footage of McMahon vs Kroenke I from last night’s Monday Night Raw, but it was just too lame. Sorry Vince, but you are slipping.