Keys to extending the series

There was nothing more surprising in Game 4 than how easily the Lakers won. Not easy as in, playing the Charlotte Bobcats easy… but rather, easy as in… they played slow, uninspired basketball for about 46 minutes and still ended up winning without doing anything special. Some may say the Nuggets handed the victory to the Lakers, but I see it differently. Usually when a team hands over the game to its opponent, there is visible frustration or a dazed glare in the player’s eyes as if they’re in disbelief of what’s happening. On Sunday, the Nuggets didn’t show any of these signs. It was as if they didn’t even realize what was actually going on until the game had finally concluded — something eerily similar to what we’ve seen all season long.

Game 4, more than anything, was bad habits catching up to the Nuggets. All those absolutely abysmal performances we saw from them during the middle stretch of the season when it looked as if they were a lottery team rather than a playoff team — those habits don’t just disappear never to be seen again. There’s a given amount of time that must pass before these types of things steadily dissolve from the your brain. Had the Nuggets been a team like the Bulls, Spurs or Grizzlies who failed to let injuries to it’s best players hold them back, those bad habits never would have appeared in the first place; and on Sunday, they likely would have been relentless in their attempt to pound the Lakers into submission. Instead, they seemed satisfied just to be there. The importance of that game never seemed to permeate their minds. Now the Nuggets face the near-impossible task of going to Los Angeles and winning with their backs against the ropes while Kobe Bryant stands glaring at them from the other side of the court.

But, nothing is written quite yet. The Nuggets still have a chance to make some noise before the inevitable rears its ugly head. Here are a few keys that should help the Nuggets extend this series and bring them back to Denver for a possible Game 6:

Let Kobe do Kobe. The Nuggets have done an excellent job of defending Kobe Bryant during the series, evident by his .426 shooting percentage throughout. Afflalo has taken a hit offensively due to his rigorous job of containing Bryant, but the that’s to be expected. If Karl can keep rotating Afflalo, Brewer and Gallinari on the “Black Mamba,” that will keep Kobe in check, forcing up countless ill-advised shots along the way.

Keep Miller posted up. As one of the better diminutive post players in the game, Andre Miller has done a great job of backing down Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions in the post. Mike Brown has shown an affinity to playing Blake alongside Sessions, which is beneficial for Karl and his similar liking to the two-point guard lineup. At this point the Nuggets will take baskets any way they can get them, and it just so happens that Miller is the likeliest candidate to get these due to his individual matchups.

Gallinari must drive to the lane. While his shot was indeed falling in Game 4, it’s not going to stay that way for an extended period of time. Gallinari’s strength lies in his ability to get into the lane and draw contact. Drawing contact means the Lakers big men get in foul trouble and when the Lakers big men get in foul trouble, the Nuggets maintain a “sizable” advantage over their counterpart. Even if he’s not getting the calls it’s absolutely paramount that Gallinari is relentless in his attempt to get to the free throw line if Denver wants to extend this series.

Play McGee as much as humanly possible. The numbers are in and what we’re seeing is that when McGee is in the game, Andrew Bynum is not the same dominant player he was in Game 1. While his points continue to rack up, his rebounding goes in the opposite direction. McGee’s presence in the paint alone is a total game changer. Going back to Los Angeles should benefit him in terms of his asthma, so seeing any less than 30 minutes of action will be unacceptable.

Stay away from small ball. As it is, nobody sees small ball as an asset… except George Karl. But against the Lakers, electing not to utilize your 7-footers is particularly frustrating. There’s just no room, no reason, no practical justification for having Al Harrington on Pau Gasol or Kenneth Faried on Andre Bynum. The Lakers always have a 7-footer on the floor, therefore the Nuggets should to. Karl cannot be afraid to tap into his bench and use three 7-footers even if it means straying away from his idiosyncrasies. If it’s for short stretches of only a few minutes, that’s still one more minute that the Lakers don’t have the huge size advantage they have throughout the series.

Run like hell. The Nuggets have nothing to lose in Game 5. They must leave every ounce of their heart out on the floor. This means running like their lives depend on it. Of course, to run you must first get stops, so defense will be an essential part of this equation. If the Nuggets can establish a frantic pace, the Lakers won’t feel comfortable and likely wont’ be able to keep up either. Falling into the trap of playing a half-court game will be the first step towards going home early.

Rebound the ball if you want to live. Besides playing lock-down defense, I don’t think there’s anything more important in Game 5 than rebounding the ball. The Lakers are one team you absolutely cannot afford to give extra possessions to. Every time Kobe misses a difficult shot and you don’t get the rebound, you erase any work you put into defending him — or anybody else for that matter — in the first place. Bynum and Gasol thrive off rebounding. It gets the crowd into the game, boosts their confidence and in the end gives them one more opportunity than the Nuggets to score a basket. Faried and McGee weren’t brought to Denver to score. They’re both fully capable of dominating the Lakers on the glass, they just have to go out and do it. Get aggressive, box out and frustrate Gasol and Bynum in the process. Perhaps easier said than done, but who said this was going to be easy in the first place?

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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.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • DaveCh999

    This article is awesome! Someone make sure Karl see’s this before game 5. The only problem I have is when Andre posts up he sometimes has games where he makes poor decisions with the ball and starts to force shots. He did a great job of scoring/facilitating in game 3/4 but if he gets in his head that he needs to start forcing shots it can kill the Nuggets already struggling half court offense.

  • KW

    Thanks to the crew at RMC for all the hustle this season.

    I think it’s over.

    I take heart that we didn’t have to watch Melo, JR, Chaunce, KMart and Nene lose to the Fakers again this year. That would have been unbearable. Maybe next years team will have a little more moxy. This years crew really lost it due to a lack of moxy…no other reason.

    • Crase24

      Find it hilarious that you can use the term “Fakers” along with “lose…AGAIN” in the same sentence.

      • KW

        Cluck, cluck said the Chicken.

      • abatonbafan

        The Fakers and Slippers are geographically located properly in the Hollywood area as they both obviously have the best acting coaches money can buy… LA=FLOP CITY

  • David

    It’s really sad. U know i think there comes a time every organization has to look at itself in the mirror. Do we think its just a coincidence that for over 40yrs LA has been a championship contender and Denver has not even been to the finals once. To me someone in that organization has to step up and say enough of these 1st round exits … thats where it starts. I honestly thought 09′ was our best chance and we couldnt get it done. Its very disappointnig, i mean think about it who the hell was OKC 5 yrs ago. Today look where they are and we cant honestly say we’ve improved from pre-melo to now.

  • http://N/A Jeff

    I think Denver probably could have given OKC, SA, LAC, a 7 game series (and won some of those). The Lakers were a bad matchup from the get go. Their size dictates too much for Karl to really game plan and run the way he wants too.

  • GIANLUCA

    sign HOWARD

    KARL FIREEE

  • Underdogs need adaptive coaching

    Denver’s team speed/fast break is most explosive when they have their best rebounders/shot blockers in the game together. George Karl in the last press conference said the poor rebounding against the Lakers was the primary reason the game was lost. Well then George…why did you only play Faried and McGee together in tandem for a total of 14 min in game 4??? These two with Lawson just had dictated and won you the previous game. Mozgov/Faried and McGee/Harrington is not the same defensive Fear Factor as Faried/McGee…you know this, but you thought their offensive output in game 3 was a fluke. Faried/McGee in game 3 might not have finished together in the 4th quarter leading up to the win if Harrington had not got his nose BROKEN.
    Coach Karl, to win against the Lakers you must have Faried/McGee play together for at least 32 min because their energy and athleticism will propel the only mega-advantage that the Nuggets have over the Lakers and that is SPEED…to do this George you must overcome your own FEAR FACTOR first, then the wins will follow…

  • aaron

    I’m not sure what game Kalen was watching, but we gave the Lakers all they wanted. . . . . . Tell Gasol, hyper ventalating on the bench, that it was easy. We lost 3 plays at the end. . .Gallo falling over, Miller’s missed alley oop. . .Miller’s illegal tip. Period. Anything else is just dramatics. The small lineups are killing us and we need to actually go bigger than the Lakers at points to have a chance on the road.

    • DH

      Aaron, I understand what you’re saying, because we did give them a hell of a game and the effort was there. But I think I also understand what Kalen is saying. The difference between Games 3 and 4 in terms of pushing the pace, attacking the paint, and fighting for inside position on rebounds was glaring. I don’t think it was a lack of physical effort, though. I think it was more of the mental approach. To me, we looked kind of casual (maybe even overconfident?) walking the ball up the court and being content to play the Lakers style, as if we could do what we did in Game 3 without forcing the issue.

      The most obvious example of how different Games 3 and 4 were was in the rebounding. We outrebounded them by 10 in Game 3. They outrebounded us by 10 in Game 4. A 20-rebound swing from one game to the next is extraordinary. Yet, I don’t think the Lakers did anything unusual to regain the rebounding advantage (which seems like it fits in with Kalen’s assertion). We weren’t working for inside position, and actually tried to rebound from behind the Lakers’ bigs. Also, we settled for a lot of jump shots, instead of attacking, which automatically gave them the advantage on inside position.

      So, yeah, I think we need to push the ball, attack the paint, and fight for position on rebounds like never before to win this next game. And I can’t really say we did any of that very well in Game 3. Again, I think it’s a mental thing with a young team – not an indication of how hard they are playing/trying.

  • ny nugs fan

    this is the best sports blog… you guys rock!!

    the other thing about this series is just how atrocious the refs have called the game; it’s so bad that’s it’s really sad… and the lakers are getting away with some questionable stuff

    i mean, that play under the basket mcgee was going to block bynum and then bynum moved under his legs… i feel sorry for bynum bcse he can’t play the game straight up; very sad

    • steve

      I actually think the refs have been pretty good. They’ve let everyone play since game 1. If you are referring to the illegal screen, well that was just 1 call and i dont think any ref would call that with 40 seconds left in game along with the way Gallo tried to sell it.

      Overall i think the refs have been good. They aren’t more than 1% the reason why we are down 1-3.

      • abatonbafan

        I can’t say that I like the officiating, but it hasn’t been as bad and one sided as it often is/was in the regular season. I gave up long time season tickets to the Nuggets last year because of how games are officiated and all the flopping that is rewarded, but feel this series isn’t being decided by the officials. I do think the non calls seem to affect the Nuggets more in a mental sense, but when you see Kobe only going to the line a few times in a game, the officiating isn’t all that uneven for the most part. But they are still the Fakers, along with their counterpart Slippers, FLOP CITY!!

  • evan

    The Nuggets are going to win this series and play the Oklahoma City Thunder in round two.

    • Kyle Obergfell

      And Mitt Romney is going to donate all his billions to stem cell research, NASA and corporate tax reform.

  • http://espn.com Chris

    until the nuggets find away to get a real elite 2 guard they aren’t going any where fast, AAA is not the answer, sorry for all you AAA fans, he lacks true explosiveness, and he’s stiff.

    • Kyle Obergfell

      Thank you.

    • steve

      this is a joke. AA is a very good player. I posted this in another Nug blog. We signed GALLO to be our elite player!!!! He is making 10-11 mill per year. Every team needs an elite wing and a defensive stopper. AA was never signed to be elite. He was signed to be exactly what he is now. he makes 7.5 mill per season for a reason, which is right on for what he deserves.

      • Kyle Obergfell

        AAA is a ridiculously over-rated fan favorite.
        He would be great off the bench.. but he has no
        business as a starting SG.

        Look around the league by comparison…
        then it becomes obscenely obvious that he
        is dragging the team down.

        He needs to be a bench player.

        I actually think I have more faith in Corey Brewer.
        But AAA (that is such a joke) is not ever
        going to help this team. He is a back-up.
        Not a 40 minute starter.

        Just look around the league by comparison.
        You won’t be able to deny this truth.

        • Kyle Obergfell

          And re: Gallo and the payroll in general..
          you need to do more research…
          but I’m happy to help…

          but what’s obscene is actually the two lowest paid
          players on this list.. who are arguably the two most
          valuable players on the team.. at least this year.

          per ESPN

          No…Name…………..POS…..Age….Ht….Wt……2011-2012 salary

          24..Andre Mille………PG……….36….6-2….200…..$7,807,728
          6….Aron Affalo………SG………26….6-5….215…..$7,562,500
          7….Al Harrington…….PF………32….6-9…..250….$6,226,200
          21..Wilson Chandler…SF………24….6-8….225…..$5,816,664
          11..Chris Anderson…..C………33….6-10…228…..$4,234,000
          8….Danillo Gallinari…SF………23….6-10…225…..$4,190,182
          25..Timofey Mozgov…C………..25…7-1….250…..$3,343,895
          13..Corey Brewer……SF………26….6-9….188…..$3,059,000
          34..Javale McGee…….C……….24….7-0….252…..$2,462,400
          41..Kosta Koufos……..C……….23….7-0….265…..$2,203,792
          3….Ty Lawson……….PG………24….5-11…195….$1,654,440
          35..Kenneth Faried….PF……….22….6-8….228…..$1,254,720

          • Kyle Obergfell

            My biggest problem with Affalo is that he has
            no game in the paint. He doesn’t do much
            other than live and die by his jumper.
            He is no offensive threat because he has such
            limited diversity and dynamics.

            No opponent loses sleep before a game that they
            have to guard Aron Affalo. At this rate.. he’s getting
            the wide open threes because I’m sure (at least if
            I was Lakers coach).. it’s exactly what the Lakers
            want him to do. He will get those looks all day.
            Instant possession kill.

            Defense?? OMG please.. we were the worst perimeter
            defense in the NBA.. we made stars out of complete
            role players this year.. How does AAA get a reputation
            with nearly more minutes than anyone.. a next to last
            NBA defense.. and absolute worst perimeter defense in
            the NBA??

            I don’t know how so many miss the big picture
            with AAA. Not to mention.. completely sucking
            out loud for the first half of the season.

            Who else gets away with that?

  • http://yahoo mile high

    Numbers don’t lie. How many rebounds did your 7ft McGee actually take down in Game 4? Well, I don’t want to advertise it here because I don’t want it to seem like I’m attacking McGee but if you haven’t noticed, look it up. Perception is one thing but it cannot replace reality.

    Don’t get me wrong, Kalen, I’m not against McGee, and I’m certainly not against you. In fact, you’re one of my favorite bloggers and as to McGee, I’ve grown to quite like the guy. Despite of the lack of rebounding in game 4, I think he played hard and was still the most effective of our 7 footers.

    However, McGee is years away from being a Bynum and I think he might be a little carried away by all the sudden accolades and love that we have all been heaving on him. As a result, he’s trying a little too much by wanting to score and block in every procession.

    So here’s my plea to McGee, stop trying to block every shot! Blocks are spectacular and crowd pleasing but low percentage plays. Just focus on getting us 12 rebounds a game instead and we’ll root for our FO to give you a big contract come Summer.

    You can do it, McGee, and we can still win the series.

    • abatonbafan

      Nugs fan since they were the Rockets. My take on McGee is he is birdman version 2.0 right now. Inconsistent, goes for to many blocks so he is out of position for rebounding, occasionally has a good offensive game. I hope he is not overpaid as birdman was/is personally. Also, as much as Miller did positively, he also is horrible for a vet to turn the ball over as often as he does when he is trying to take more control of a game and you can throw in his goaltending call as a bad veteran play as well. AAA has disappeared again, just like last year. And then there is Brewer taking horrible shots and overplaying for steals and giving up layups when he fails. When you add up the plus/minuses for several of these guys, they aren’t the players that are going to take us to a championship caliber team. Neither is Karl as a coach. Put Mozzy on Bynum, McGee on Gasol, Faried to run around like the Fruita headless chicken to cause havoc, Gallo on Kobe and Lawson playing like he didn’t spend the day in bed with his girlfriend, and we have a shot to bring it back to Denver.

      • KW

        Rec’d for Fruita Headless Chicken reference

  • DH

    From Andrew Bynum…

    “Hopefully we finish them off,” center Andrew Bynum said. “I don’t want to go back to Denver. … Closeout games are actually kind of easy. Teams will fold if you come out and play hard.”

    I hope the Nuggets have seen this quote.

  • NewEraNugg

    First post here at RB. Go Nuggs, I’m interested to see what kind of character this team shows. Would be very easy to pack it in & quit, here’s hoping they play with pride & bring it back to Denver.

  • ryanvdonk

    Keys 1-5: Ty needs to be aggressive and attack the paint. Our offense just works so much better when this happens, he gets layups, wide open dump offs to his bigs and open looks on the perimeter (if we can hit them) as the defense is sucked in. When Ty is passive, the ball swings around the corner, the defense can remain stationary and we end up taking a jump shot 2/3 of the time.