Land O’ Lakers chat

I once again joined up with Andrew Kamenetzky of ESPNLA’s Land O’ Lakers blog to chat about Game 4 and what we might see in Game 5. Here is the transcript.

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.

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Rapid Reaction: L.A. Lakers 92, Denver Nuggets 88

Los Angeles Lakers 92 Final

Recap | Box Score

88 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 32 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -1
You have two options with Faried: either look at his stat line and excuse it as inexperience and being outmatched, or argue that it’s simply not good enough regardless of whether he’s a rookie or 10-year pro. I chose the latter. Faried showed in Game 3 that he’s more than capable of hitting the glass hard in a playoff game against much taller opponents. In Game 4 he was nowhere to be found. Seven boards are routine; six points is even worse. Faried did play good defense on Gasol but this was largely overshadowed by the fact that he was in terrible position to rebound the entire night. Faried must prove himself again in Game 5.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 9-16 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 20 PTS | -11
If not for the flop that essentially ended the game, Gallinari likely would have received an A-plus. For the most part Gallinari was spectacular. He hit one jump shot after another and outside of Andre Miller was the only guy looking to score in an aggressive manner. His defense on Kobe should not be overlooked either. He played a large role in limiting Kobe down the stretch and keeping the game close as a result.
Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -7
How are you supposed to grade Mozgov? Somebody inform me. He played solid post defense — like always — but was pretty unstable in every other aspect of the game. When he remained in for about five minutes to start the second half the Lakers immediately climbed their way back into the game which ended up being a huge momentum swing. While Mozgov does play better against the Lakers, I still think Koufos is a more reliable option, all things considered.
Arron Afflalo, SG 32 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 6 PTS | +1
After scoring over 15 points in all but one game during the month of April, Afflalo has now failed to score over 11 this entire series. It’s clear that guarding Kobe is taking a toll on him. His legs are probably tired, and as a result, prevent him from knocking down shots or being aggressive the way he usually is. He is 2-11 from downtown this series which is keeping the Nuggets from hitting momentum-changing 3-pointers like the Lakers — who aren’t a good outside shooting team — have in several games already. The bottom line is that Afflalo is an essential part of the Nuggets core, and without his given 15-plus points per game, the Nuggets are a different, much worse team.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +1
While he’s still averaging 17 points per game in the series as a whole, Lawson’s inconsistency is bothersome. Even if he had scored five more points this game, it would have been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Nuggets. Though he wasn’t exactly timid, he also wasn’t the definition of “threatening” either. If Lawson can bounce back in Game 5 and somehow lead the Nuggets to victory, his weaker performances can be overlooked — after all, inconsistency is a part of basketball. But if he has yet another sub-par outing, it will likely be back to the Trading Machine for Nuggets fans across the globe.
Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -4
Harrington hit one big 3-pointer but otherwise spent most of his time being abuse by Bynum or Gasol in the post. That’s not really his fault however. Even against the most talented power forward-center duo in the league Karl continues to play Harrington out of position. There’s just not much he can do against Gasol and Bynum defensively. He tries, but he just isn’t effective. On offense, he couldn’t get his shot to fall either. It would have been nice to see him take a few less shots but none were atrocious in terms of location or selection. In the end, Big Al still deserves a round of applause for fighting through a broken nose and still giving it his all for Nuggets Nation.
Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 7-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -1
We’ve been critical of Miller for his selfish style of play, but in games like these it can really pay off. While most of his teammates stood around kicking the dirt with their hands in their pockets, Miller got to work from the start and never let up. Not once did he hesitate to take advantage of a smaller defender in the post and was quick to get any sort of offense going once the Nuggets made it past halfcourt. Had he waited just a fraction of a second longer for the tip-in that was called a goaltend, the outcome of this game could have been different.
Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -3
Brewer was energetic, hit some unbelievable shots and played stingy defense on whoever he was guarding. His hands, especially, were like little mini tornadoes. They were constantly moving in a flurry, and whenever the ball came near, it seemed to get deflected out of his opponent’s hands in some way or another. Brewer should have received more than 13 minutes as he was playing extremely well and just seemed to be having “one of those nights.”
JaVale McGee, C 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +5
McGee is another tough grade to dish out. On one hand, his paint presence alone means so much the Nuggets. He’s young, still maturing and learning every step of the way. At the same time, four rebounds in 27 minutes of action is extremely weak for a center as tall and athletic as McGee. The Lakers killed the Nuggets on the glass in Game 4, creating 10 extra possessions as a result. Had the Nuggets cut that number in half, this game would have been a different story. His paint presence — as evident by the four blocks — is a fantastic asset to have, but without rebounding it’s never going to be utilized the way it should be.

Land O’ Lakers chat

Yesterday I caught up with ESPNLA’s Andy Kamenetzky to talk Nuggets-Lakers and how JaVale McGee is surprisingly similar to Wilt Chamberlain. Yes, you heard that correctly. Weird. Follow the link for further details.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 99 Los Angeles Lakers 84

Los Angeles Lakers 84 Final
Recap | Box Score
99 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 36 MIN | 6-16 FG | 0-0 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | +5

What Faried has managed to accomplish as a rookie is incredible. He couldn’t sniff garbage minutes at the beginning of the season and is now being marketed as the face of the team. While Faried is still physically overmatched, he’s made strides on the defensive end and established himself as a rebounding force. When the game got close and the Nuggets found themselves struggling to execute, the Nuggets relied on Faried’s energy to pull out a gritty win.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -1

Another mediocre offensive performance from Gallo, who still has not been able to leave his mark on the series. While Gallo didn’t make plays or shoot well, he started to find his game in the fourth quarter and managed to end his night on a high note. Gallo made several big free throws and grabbed some crucial rebounds late, all while having to guard Kobe Bryant for a majority of his time on the floor. Gallo was solid on Kobe, but is still a non-factor offensively.

Timofey Mozgov, C 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8

Karl’s decision to start Mozgov paid off as the Lakers were not able to establish their paint defense as easily as they were in L.A. Unfortunately, Mozgov wasn’t able to contain Bynum into the second half and unraveled. His presence was an effective deterrent for Bynum early, but he was awful with the ball in his hands and completely overshadowed by McGee and Faried in a rough second half.

Arron Afflalo, SG 25 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +4

Afflalo’s play continues to decline. His ineffectiveness has reached a point where George Karl decided to bench him for the entirety of the pivotal fourth quarter. There’s no nice way to put it — Afflalo, who was a premier player for the Nuggets heading into the series, has been reduced to a barely visible role player. His defense is unremarkable and he continues to force offense with poor results. Afflalo appears to have lost some confidence and is no longer playing his game.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 9-19 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 25 PTS | +23

Lawson proved he can carry the Nuggets for stretches and a game like this proves just how important he is in this series. Denver’s offense was unstoppable when Lawson was at his best and the Lakers quickly got right back in the game when his aggressiveness tapered off. Lawson was amazing, but too unselfish in the second half, where he scored only 7 points and deferred to Andre Miller. Even with all his faults, Lawson produced at a superstar level throughout the first half and the Lakers had no answer.

Al Harrington, PF 17 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | +1

Harrington was off to a decent start before catching a vicious elbow from Andrew Bynum in the third quarter. Harrington appeared dizzy and unable to get up and down the floor for a good two possessions before play was finally stopped and he was able to be examined. Harrington broke his nose and will have to wear a mask if he’s able to go in game four.

Andre Miller, PG 32 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 13 PTS | +17

Miller’s offense certainly wasn’t pretty, but he continues to be very effective off the bench. Andre has played with a lot of confidence in this series and seems to know he can generate good looks against the Lakers reserves. Andre made a huge three-pointer to seal the win and was distributing effectively despite the fact he took some ill-advised shots. The Nuggets need confident decision makers on offense and right now Miller is one of the few consistent options.

Corey Brewer, SF 16 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +4

Brewer had a very sub-par night in terms of production, but I feel he was a positive on defense and a better offensive player than his awful shooting performance indicates. This was Brewer’s worst game of the series, but his hands were all over the place defensively and his trademark energy was a key ingredient in the Nuggets eventually gutting out a win.

JaVale McGee, C 28 MIN | 8-12 FG | 0-2 FT | 15 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | +30

Wow. While I’m still in awe of how thoroughly McGee dominated inside, I can’t say it was totally unexpected. The Nuggets have nothing to lose by throwing McGee out there over Koufos and Mozgov just to see what the kid is made of. McGee played over 25 minutes for the first time in ten games and responded with a Bynum-like performance of 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. It was a resounding statement game for McGee, who became the first big off the bench and proved he needs a significant role for Denver to have any chance of getting back in this series.

Who Should Play and When? [Updated]

With the Denver Nuggets trailing the Los Angeles Lakers 2-0 in their best of seven first round matchup there have been a lot of questions regarding what the Nuggets need to do in order to get back into the series.

One of the most consistent points of contention between Nuggets fans all season long has been regarding the lineups and rotations.  That debate has only intensified over the previous two games.  Do the Nuggets need to go small and try to run the Lakers off the court? Do they need to go big to try to match LA’s size?  Should Miller and Lawson play together?  Some think Koufos should be benched, others think he is doing fine and Mozgov should be left to rot on the pine.

The truth is there simply is not enough information to make an informed decision meaning no one can honestly say he has the answer to any of these questions.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 100 Los Angeles Lakers 104

A very disappointing night for the Denver Nuggets. The boys in blue played much better, but it still was not enough as another second half rally fell short.

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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.

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Film Room: Scoring in the Paint Versus the Lakers

The Denver Nuggets live on points in the paint.  In game 1 of their playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers, they had no problem getting into the paint, what they had a problem with was scoring once they got there.  The story of the game was the triple double by Andrew Bynum who completely controlled the lane defensively for the Lakers.

All hope is not lost; the Nuggets need to simply do a better job of taking advantage of the times they get in the lane.  Denver finished with 44 points in the paint, a respectable total, but when you consider how many more points they could have had if they did not offer up so many meek attempts that were thrown back, there is hope Denver can get their offense back on track.  In the Film Room session below, we take a look at what Denver must do to improve their offense in the paint.

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