Additional Game 1 notes

There was quite a bit to see in Game 1 of the Nuggets first-rounds series against the Lakers. Though we covered most of it in the Rapid Reaction recap, there were still a few notes that went unpublished… until now. Here is some additional food for thought before the Nuggets tee off against the Lakers in Game 2, tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST.

– Though Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are two of the best big men in the NBA, they’re not invincible. Just like every superhero has a weakness, so do NBA All Stars. Gasol is soft and Bynum, extremely irritable. Part of the Nuggets gameplan on Tuesday must be figuring out ways to frustrate Bynum and Gasol so they don’t think as clearly as they normally do, and in turn, commit petty fouls which would keep them out of the game. Faried and Koufos should get physical with Gasol early on, while someone else — anyone will do — should try and get under Bynum’s skin.

— If the Nuggets are to continue employing the fastbreak offense, one thing is paramount: getting stops. The fastbreak offense is one hell of a vehicle once it gets going, but it takes fuel in order for the engine to operate. This can only be achieved by getting stops. The fastbreak doesn’t work when you’re letting your opponent score at will, therefore the Nuggets lifeline will likely hinge on whether they can get stops (what a revelation!). Seems logical enough, but defense has been a problem for this team all year long.

— Ty Lawson needs to get going from the time the first whistle blows. Nobody on the Lakers squad can handle his speed. He’s going to have to make peace with the fact that he won’t be able to finish around the basket the way he’s used to doing, but that doesn’t mean he can’t affect the game in other ways. The minute Lawson resigns as an active threat, the Lakers have won. He must continue to penetrate and get creative once inside the paint. Whether this means kicking the ball back out to the perimeter (which he’s very good at) or just dribbling around taller, more slow players until he creates space (a la Chris Paul) — something must be done to keep the Lakers on their toes.

— There were more stars in the Nuggets eyes in Game 1 than in the entire crowd at Staples Center. The Nuggets have always been star-struck when playing L.A. and Sunday may have been the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s as if the Nuggets are the nerdy chess club captain and the Lakers are the provocative prom queen everyone drools over when walking down the hall. I can’t even tell you how many times the Nuggets were caught flat footed, totally in awe of the Lakers ball movement on offense which led to countless open shots. At one point the Nuggets got so confused, four different Nuggets players ended up stationed in the paint within several feet of each other. Kobe Bryant then drove to the lane, yet nobody could figure out who was supposed to contest his shot and as a result he finished between four Nuggets with a lay up. The Nuggets need to play within themselves and most importantly, have confidence in who they are. They can’t get caught up with appearance and flash; they must focus on substance, grit and being the best team they can be.

— Mozgov played well in his limited role, I have no problem admitting that. But one thing that caught my eye was his help defense. On multiple occasions Mozgov flew in recklessly to block a shot only to find his opponent simply hand the ball off underneath to another Lakers big man for an easy dunk. Koufos was no saint either, but it’s important to acknowledge the good as well as the bad when evaluating performance.

Game 2 is going to be very telling — probably more telling than Game 1. How the Nuggets bounce back from getting pummeled will say a lot about not only their chances in the playoffs, but how far they’ve come this year as a team. Can they escape their young, fragile identity that defined them through much of the middle part of the season, or will they prove to be the cohesive cast of assorted puzzle pieces that form a beautiful picture when combined? Only time will tell…

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

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  • evan

    The Nuggets actually held their own… outside of 3 steve blake 3s at the end of the first. They were only down 10-15 with 2min left and steve got really lucky. 12pt lead at the end of the first. Won the 2nd quarter by the way, and the 3rd started off good, but it’s hard to play from behind. Also, won the 4th(outside of garbage time)

    When they were “in the game” and not “desperate” the nuggets played good defense, and had a ton of opportunities. Seems like no shot would fall and the lakers hit everything. Just one of those games.

    But again, the score doesn’t reflect the game really. The nuggets got outplayed I agree, but, upon farther though, not to the extent that it initially seemed.

    Give it some thought and tell me if you,
    Agree/Dissagree??

    Good article btw Kalen.

    Go Nuggets!

    • Trip

      I agree, the Defense could have been a little more solid, but it becomes frustrating when normal shots dont fall, sometimes that leads to our shooters trying to shoot themselves back in the game which usually spells disaster. But even though being down double digits after the first quarter, they came back ran the ball very well and got some energy.

    • phibuffa

      I agree too, and I think the reason Blake had those open looks was because of the Nuggets’ season long inability to trust their bigs down low and stay on their guys on the perimeter. It seems like every time the Nuggets got beat this season, it was because of that. I guess Karl disagrees with me, but I think either Moz or K2 (or, more likely a combination of the two throughout the game) can handle Bynum down low if they play physical and frustrate him. I definitely think McGeezie could mess with Gasol in a major way if he is instructed to stay in front of him and not let him go near the basket. Fundamentals. Neither Bynum nor Gasol like physical contact. Bynum gets pissed and Gasol will shy away.

  • al68

    LA no ataca bien su mejor distribuidor de balon es gasol por lo que deberian hacer 2×1 en defensa ya que encuentra en jugador abierto muy facilmente.

    yo sacaria mas tiempo a Brewer para presionar al PG y hacer mas dificil la circulacion de balon.

    Necesitamos ser mucho mas agresivos tenemos muchos jugadores para hacer faltas y sus hombres altos no son grandes tiradores de FT (tenemos a Andersen), gasol cuando esta cansado por el juego mas fisico falla mas FT de lo habitual.

    Si acertamos con el tiro exterior podemos abrir la defensa para las penetraciones y provocar faltas en los hombres altos de LA.

    Como he dicho ya otras veces esta año LA son un equipo mucho peor y mas facil de ganar.

  • Trip

    I need to blow off a little steam, and its not that any officiating changed the outcome of the last game, but I am waiting for a ref to be a man and call the game correctly. I dont see how they dont call Kobe for a travel every other time he touches the ball, and his pump fake jump into the defender is one of the worst in the league. He gets the call just because his jersey says Bryant. We need Gallo to do what he does very well get by his defender drive they lane get contact and then sell it a little more like he does sometimes. He needs to get to the line more often, it will help out his shooting game.

    • JOliver

      There’s any easy fix to that: Don’t jump at his head fakes! He rarely gets his jump shot/fade away blocked anyway so just stay on your feet with a hand in his face.

      • phibuffa

        True about not going for Kobe’s fake. Also, regarding Gallo, that spin move he put on Kobe was a thing of beauty. Gallo could be the go to scorer the Nuggets are looking for. I think it could happen this playoffs IF Karl starts trusting the bigs.

  • Eddie

    The nuggets arent going to be able to handle kobe and bynum! They wont be able to play their fast game against the lakers! its over and i wrote all about it and how to bet it here! http://nbawagers.com/2012/05/the-fun-continues-for-nba-betting-fans-tuesday-evening/

  • Randy

    Mr. Deremo-

    Great notes, which got noticed at TrueHoop HQ (http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop), along with some other interesting notes on the series.

    You should include your last name in the by-line of each post, though. It looks weird when you’re quoted as just “Kalen”.

    Just a thought!

  • phibuffa

    Can somebody, please GAWD, tell me why Karl refuses to play to 7 footers against Bynum and Gasol?!?!?!?!?

  • HD

    Ha feel the same way after game 2. Koufos is done for the rest of the year, he may have earned his spot, but he just played out of it. Moz was very good as well as mcgee. We should see a heavy dose of both in game three. Sorry… but to quote Charles Barkely “Kous Kous just ain’t gettin it done”

    • phibuffa

      Ha ha. I missed that one. Seriously, though, the playoffs are all about matchups and McGee blocked two of Bynum’s shots tonight. I like McGee/Moz in there against Bynum/Gasol.

      There were a lot of little things tonight, but the bottom line was this:

      Fakers played Bynum/Gasol/Hill 96 minutes.
      Nuggets played Koufos/Moz/McGee 46 minutes.

      They have no shot if Karl thinks he can get away with playing Faried or Harrington for extended minutes on the Faker’s 7 footers.