Additional Game 5 notes: Going, going, back, back, to Denver, Denver

On Tuesday night the Nuggets did something they haven’t done in three years: play great basketball in the playoffs. Although the team won several games since its historic run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009, there was always something missing in those wins. They were hollow — strictly for the sake of putting a “W” on paper and not one in the hearts of their fans. Tuesday was different. On Tuesday, the Nuggets weren’t playing for a “W”; they were playing for the city of Denver, its fans and the pride of both.

(more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 102 Los Angeles Lakers 99

Denver Nuggets 102 FinalRecap | Box Score 99 Los Angeles Lakers
Kenneth Faried, F 24 MIN | 5-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +8
Throughout the series Faried has slowly but surely improved his defense. Tonight his post defense on Pau Gasol was much improved and he produced at high level on the offensive end as well. He did not miss a shot, was the only starter to grab an offensive rebound and would have easily notched another playoff double double had he not been forced to sit out the entire fourth quarter.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 4-13 FG | 6-6 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | +4
Gallo is still struggling to find his shooting touch. He has remained aggressive after a breakout shooting performance in game four, but was not able to get the same looks to fall in L.A. Gallo’s inability to space the floor with his three point shooting has led to some poor shot selection and less passing. Despite the fact he’s one of Denver’s best passers and their most complete offensive player, Gallo has managed only 7 assist in five games. Offensively, he just isn’t much of a threat and the Nuggets need more.
Timofey Mozgov, C 13 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +4
Mozgov had a typical Mozgov game, contributing absolutely nothing in 13 minutes of action. It’s worth mentioning he was able to create space for the guards with some solid screens in the second half, but otherwise provided nothing outside of a big body to push Bynum off the block and foul him a lot.
Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 8-19 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | +1
Afflalo finally played like himself, scoring more in the first half (13 pts) than he has in any game throughout the entire series. He was extremely aggressive from the opening tip and showed a willingness to step up and attack when Denver struggled to find scoring. Afflalo didn’t play his best and still can’t make a three to save his life, but the dramatic turnaround in production was sorely needed, even if it does make Afflalo’s lackluster start to the series even more confusing
Ty Lawson, PG 29 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 9 PTS | +11
The Nuggets typically won’t compete without Ty Lawson carrying the offense, but tonight they were able to do just that. Despite not being able to find his shot, Lawson was able to get into the paint regularly and make things happen. His passing was a cut above anything else we’ve seen in the series and it seemed he was really able to get the pace going without all the added pressure of having to score a lot just to keep the Nuggets within striking distance.
Al Harrington, PF 27 MIN | 0-7 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -1
Harrington looked like he didn’t care and played even worse. Injured or not, Harrington is keeping his teammates off the court and the lack of intensity and hustle in his game was tough to take. I have literally never seen a professional player act so indifferent and disinterested in a playoff atmosphere. The Nuggets are counting on Al’s professionalism and unselfishness to help them win. Injury is not a good enough excuse for whatever Harrington is providing them with right now.
Andre Miller, PG 28 MIN | 8-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 24 PTS | -5
Miller’s finest game all year, and it just so happens he saved all of his best performances for the playoffs. Miller has obliterated the matchup with Steve Blake and been a magnificent player for Denver all series long. Miller’s decision making and point guard instincts are top notch. He makes things easier for everyone else on the floor when he’s dialed in and proved why doubting his unorthodox style can come back to bite you.
Corey Brewer, SF 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -1
Tough to grade Brewer’s performance. He was not much of a factor before catching an inadvertent elbow from JaVale McGee which took him out of commission for much of the second half.
JaVale McGee, C 33 MIN | 9-12 FG | 3-6 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | -6
Another dominant performance. For the first time all series, I thought Denver looked like a legitimately better team with McGee matched up on the Laker bigs. There is not much more to say about McGee’s performance, his superior length and athleticism created spectacular play after spectacular play and it didn’t seem to matter much what the Lakers did in response. JaVale dominated

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Rapid Reaction: Los Angeles Lakers 103, Denver Nuggets 88

Denver Nuggets 88 FinalRecap | Box Score 103 Los Angeles Lakers
Kenneth Faried, F 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -7
In the first playoff game of his career Faried played decent. The problem is, decent won’t necessarily cut it this time of year. Faried can play better than this and the Nuggets desperately need him to play better. His energy has been one of the team’s most prized assets all year long and against the Lakers it could end up countering some of Bynum’s electric blocks.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-14 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | -17
Gallinari was about the only Nugget who came prepared to play for the playoffs, not the regular season. This was especially interesting considering how long it’s taken him to regain his form since returning from injury. He attacked the basket early and often, utilizing a variety of spin moves in the post that we haven’t seen in quite some time. He also knocked down shots when he was open and played good defense for most of the game. In the postgame press conference he admitted his team was hesitant on offense and that they need to figure out ways to score (i.e. getting out on the break) before Bynum gets set on defense. Clearly Gallinari understands what it takes to win against teams like the Lakers in the postseason. Now if he can just get his teammates to grasp this concept…
Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -8
Koufos hardly made an impact. He started, as usual, but didn’t see many minutes after his initial stint. Karl said during a timeout how he needed his team to play up to it’s potential so he could understand whether his gameplan was working or not, but drastically cutting Koufos’ minutes seems to be hypocritical and counterproductive in that sense. Koufos has been a fairly large part of the Nuggets DNA over the last several months and is one of the few players on the roster who has the size and defensive aggression to possibly stifle Gasol or even Bynum. Seeing him play only 12 minutes doesn’t seem like enough time for a detailed evaluation of where he stands.
Arron Afflalo, SG 33 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 9 PTS | -7
Afflalo played great defense on Kobe… for about half the game. But once Kobe got going he never slowed down. Guarding the NBA’s second best shooting guard of all time is not an easy task. Afflalo did well for the most part but he still has to shoot better than 27 percent from the field. Anybody who takes pride in their defense knows it’s extremely difficult to lock down your opponent on one end and attack with aggression on the other, and sadly that’s what the Nuggets are asking from Afflalo. Still, if anybody can do it, it’s him.
Ty Lawson, PG 31 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 7 PTS | -21
There was quite a bit of fuss on Twitter regarding Lawson’s performance. Clearly he was intimidated by the Lakers front-court duo of Bynum and Gasol and avoided penetrating the lane virtually all together for much of the game. But before we overreact and jump to conclusions (after only one playoff game nonetheless) let’s keep a few things in mind: First, Lawson was the Nuggets best player in the playoffs last year against Serge Ibaka and the Thunder. Second, Lawson has fared extremely well in terms of bouncing back after bad scoring outings this season, having scored in single digits on back-to-back occasions only once all year. Finally, the Lakers are just a flat-out bad matchup for the diminutive point guard. Ty Lawson is 5-11 on a good day; the Lakers front-court duo is 7 feet every day. Lawson relies heavily on dribble penetration and most importantly, finishing around the rim. When he has two 7-footers watching his every move, it’s extremely tough for him to play this way. I’m not trying to be an apologist, but I’m level headed enough to understand that just because he struggles against the best power forward-center combo since Duncan and Robinson doesn’t mean he’s not the Nuggets point guard of the future.
Al Harrington, PF 22 MIN | 4-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -4
Harrington was bad. He didn’t play his game and attempted to force shots up when they weren’t falling in true Mamba-esque fashion. This is not the type of performance the Nuggets need from Big Al. At some point he needed to sever ties with shot attempts, as none of them were falling, yet he just never did. Look for Harrington to bounce back next game.
Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -5
Miller’s stat line is impressive, however it’s difficult to recall any one thing he did extremely well that helped the Nuggets in their attempt to win this game. He filled in for Lawson during stretches he normally wouldn’t — due to Ty’s struggles — and did a solid job all things considered. Hopefully Lawson finds ways to score next game so that Miller can revert back to the distributor he’s been lately that benefits the Nuggets most.
Corey Brewer, SF 23 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +3
Brewer was certainly a bright spot on a dull, dispirited afternoon. He played great defense on every person he was assigned to guard and was one of the few Nuggets who tried to embrace the fastbreak. His defense could end up playing a key role this series, especially if Karl decides to place him on Bryant.
Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -3
For the second game in a row Mozgov played better than he has for most of the season. Perhaps the key is only playing him 10-12 minutes per night as he seems to top out at “Maximum Productivity” after that point. I still think Koufos deserved about half of Mozgov’s minutes, if not more, for the simple fact that he isn’t a liability on offense and has been a major contributor for the Nuggets down the stretch.
JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 0-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -10
Sunday was a struggle for McGee. Like many Nuggets, this was his first playoff game and it showed in the form of nervousness. He was fumbling the ball as if it were going out of style and couldn’t finish anything within two feet of the rim. But also like many of his teammates, he should bounce back on Tuesday with a more dominating performance.
Julyan Stone, G 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +2
N/A
Jordan Hamilton, G 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +2
N/A

(more…)

5-on-5: Lakers preview

In Roundball Mining Company’s latest edition of our 5-on-5 series we discuss what’s on everyone’s mind: Lakers vs. Nuggets. In addition to our normal trio of contributors (Jeremy, Charlie and I), we’ve asked Brain Kamenetzky of ESPN’s Land O’Lakers blog and Roundball reader Logan Wright to chip in with their take on the series as well.

(more…)

Film Room: Mozgov vs Bynum

The most difficult matchup for the Denver Nuggets in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers is Andrew Bynum.  Bynum is the dominant offensive center in the NBA and the Nuggets must make sure that he does not score at will.  Unlike in the past when the Nuggets bigs consisted of Nene, Birdman and Kenyon Martin, Denver has plenty of size to attempt to matchup with Bynum and Pau Gasol.

Out of Denver’s four centers, the one who does the best defending Bynum is Timofey Mozgov.  In the Film Room segment below I have strung together six clips from the April 13 game where Mozgov is defending Bynum.

(more…)

Hickory-High breaks down Nuggets vs. Lakers

This is an excellent video breakdown of contrasting styles of play and individual matchups by our friends at Hickory-High. We can talk all we want about predictions but the fact is, the technical side of the game — running plays, exploiting weaknesses, ect. — will play as big of a role as any in deciding the outcome of this series. Hickory-High details these nuances with easy-to-understand video analysis which you can’t find anywhere else. If you’re a Nuggets or Lakers fan, this is a must read.

Nuggets vs Lakers – Lakers Defensive Philosophy

The Los Angeles Lakers are a very good defensive team.  A big part of that is they do a good job of forcing their opponent to go to their second and third option on offense thus encouraging their opponent attempt low percentage shots.  Against the Nuggets L.A. will attempt to pack the paint and close off the driving lanes to the basket.  As a result the Nuggets will be able to get open looks from the perimeter, but they are low percentage shots.  In the following Roundball Mining Company Denver Nuggets Film Room segment you can see the Lakers’ philosophy of remove the first option and close off the lane in action.

(more…)

What did the Spurs win do for the Nuggets?

With their decisive victory over the tanking Portland Trail Blazers the San Antonio Spurs have locked in the top seed in the Western Conference for the second straight year.  With it they have may have solidified the Denver Nuggets’ hold on the sixth seed.

(more…)

Nuggets at Lakers Q & A with Brian Kamenetzky of Land O’Lakers [Updated]

In preparation for the big tilt tonight between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers I had the opportunity to exchange questions and Answers with Brian Kamenetzky, one half of the famous Kamenetzky brothers who have been covering the Lakers for years and who now run Land O’Lakers on ESPN Los Angeles.  You can head on over to Land O’Lakers to read my answers to his questions including the three things Denver must do to win tonight.

(more…)

Rapid Reaction: Los Angeles Lakers 93, Denver Nuggets 89

Los Angeles Lakers 93 FinalRecap | Box Score 89 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C 31 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -6
Nene had trouble defending and scoring on the Lakers’ bigs down low. Los Angeles has always been a bad match-up for the Brazilian big man, and Friday proved no different.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 29 MIN | 1-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -1
Gallinari started off the game scoring a few buckets but went ice cold from there on out. This is another among a handful of bad performances Gallinari has had recently and the second game in the last three where he’s been relegated to the bench late in the fourth quarter of a tight game. Even considering his struggles, it’s hard to understand why he wasn’t at least on the floor for the final play of the game.
Timofey Mozgov, C 7 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +3
Mozgov was playing great yet again until he went down with an ankle injury. He was defending well and made several nice shots in the post. As weird as it sounds, the Nuggets missed him greatly once he exited the game.
Arron Afflalo, SG 24 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 7 PTS | -7
Afflalo played good defense for most of the game and came up with a few steals in the process. His struggles continue and naturally so does his erratic insertion into the lineup.

Ty Lawson, PG
36 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 14 PTS | -4
Ty Lawson was one of the strong points to a Nuggets team that had difficulty doing anything well against the Lakers. While Gasol and Bynum offer up an intimidating combo for the diminutive guard to score against, he still found ways to affect the game in other areas.
Al Harrington, PF 37 MIN | 8-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 24 PTS | -8
Big Al came up “big” in the fourth quarter where he scored 10 straight points to keep the Nuggets alive. His passion and desire to win are proving to be some of the most valuable intangibles this Nuggets team has to offer. Unfortunately, the rest of his teammates couldn’t quite bring it the way Al did against the Lakers.
Andre Miller, PG 30 MIN | 5-6 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 16 PTS | +1
Miller had a solid night numerically but once again had trouble guarding his opponents. Even though he may be one of the better players on the Nuggets roster its perplexing as to why he always closes out games even when he’s pitted against much larger shooting guards where Afflalo might have more success.
Corey Brewer, SF 9 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -4
Brewer didn’t see much time but in the minutes he did receive he brought the standard infectious energy level that Nuggets fans have become accustomed to seeing.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 21 MIN | 1-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +4
This was by far one of Rudy’s worst games of the season. His three-point shot was not falling, yet he continued to hoist up countless jumpers which almost never made it through the rim. Again, it’s imperative that Rudy makes an impact in other areas of the game besides just shooting 3-pointers.
Kosta Koufos, C 16 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +2
Koufos wasn’t exactly having his way against the Lakers bigs and finished the night off on the bench for most of the second half as a result. Similar to Nene, this was a tough match-up for the young center even though he gave his best effort in the minutes he was given.

Nuggets vs Lakers Q & A

In preparation for today’s slug fest between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets I had the chance to do a Q & A with Andy Kamenetzky from ESPN’s Land O’ Lakers blog and ESPN Los Angeles.  You can read my responses to Andy’s intriguing questions over on Land O’ Lakers.  You can also look for a 5-on-5 coming later today on ESPN.com where I weigh in on tonight’s doubleheader with the Celtics and Knicks playing before the Nuggets and Lakers.

1. The Lakers have vastly different home and road records. Experienced veteran teams are not typically so deficient away from home so why are the Lakers having such a difficult time winning on the road?

Well, it’s worth noting the Lakers’ early season road schedule has been very difficult. They’ve had games in Sacramento (always a tough venue), Utah (where they won), Denver (the second end of a back-to-back against the Nuggets), Portland, the Clippers, Miami and Orlando back-to-back, Milwaukee, and Minnesota (a win). The Bucks were an inexcusable loss with Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson out, but the rest of those games aren’t automatic gimmes. Factor in how the Lakers played a boatload of games in the first 3-4 weeks and the lack of practice time to learn a new system, and it’s not perhaps shocking they haven’t been good on the road.

Of course, the obvious response is that elite teams with championship aspirations will find ways to overcome these issues. Of course, the Lakers aren’t playing anywhere close to an elite level at the moment, and it’s debatable whether they’ll ever be capable of that on a regular basis. And therein lies the rub.

2. Pau Gasol, while still playing well overall, has slipped a bit from the stellar level we have come to expect from him. Is it a matter of the difficult schedule or is it possible the trade rumors are bothering him more than he has let on?

I don’t think rumors are a factor. Pau certainly wasn’t thrilled with being part of the scuttled CP3 deal, but he showed up to practice the next day, and rode out an awkward situation. I’ll give his ability to block out lingering whispers the benefit of the doubt. The schedule, however, has probably been an issue. Gasol hasn’t just played a lot of games, but a lot of minutes as well. Mike Brown’s defensive schemes demand bigs show hard and recover on pick-and-rolls, and nobody’s been pushed harder than Pau. Doing this for 37-ish minutes a night will take a toll.

There’s also a matter of Pau’s role, which hasn’t been fleshed out to his liking. There was a long stretch where he was basically parked at the elbow and used primarily as a facilitator and jump shooter, and he expressed displeasure about it. Since then, there’s an effort to get him more low post touches or just call his number, but the results have remained erratic. At times, the blame falls on teammates not looking enough for him. Others, the blame falls on Gasol’s indecisiveness and lack of unwillingness to occasionally force the issue himself.

This hasn’t been an easy season for Pau, who entered the year determined to rebound from an awful playoffs. If anything, fans are only more down on him.

3. Derek Fisher continues to wallow in his own mire on the court.  Even with his horrific percentages, it still seems like he has hit a few big shots for them this season.  Is he more important to the team than his numbers would indicate or does L.A. need to ditch him ASAP?

A little of both. Fisher’s importance as a leader can’t be overstated. He has everybody’s ear, including Kobe’s. Bryant’s said, without any hint of facetiousness, Fish is the only teammate he’ll always listen to. He also trusts Fisher unconditionally. Beyond success draining critical shots, Derek’s completely unafraid to step into those situations where someone other than Kobe needs to be clutch.

Of course, the Lakers might encounter fewer tight fourth quarters if their starting point guard produced more during the first three. Fisher’s dwindling percentages plays a role in the scoring issues this season. (To be fair, he’s also averaging about 4 assists a night, and has done a nice job initiating the early offense.) This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to put Fisher out to pasture, but limited minutes would be helpful. And that had been the approach before Steve Blake went out with a rib injury. Until Blake returns, the PT will naturally increase, and the Lakers will have to make the best of it.

Either way, Fisher doesn’t kill the team quite as much as advertised, but less is typically more.

4. Ty Lawson has done quite well against L.A. in his career. Is he the player the Lakers must focus on, or is there someone else who poses a bigger threat?

The short answer is, “anybody who can operate in transition” is who the Lakers need to key on. And since that includes virtually every significant player on Denver’s roster, nobody can go unaccounted for. Plus, at the end of the day, the Nugs are a very deep, balanced team with plenty of legit threats. Lawson, as you mentioned, is certainly a potential issue for the Lakers, given how quick guards can provide fits. But Andre Miller can be just as tough backing down opponents in the post. Danillo Gallinari can be deadly from outside or on run-outs. Al Harrington was a dizzying cover for Gasol in space during the first meeting. Nene’s spin moves around the basket are ridiculous. Arron Afflalo, if playing like himself, is among the best “3 and D” players in the game, which means he can hurt the Lakers on both ends.

Bottom line, Lawson makes me nervous, but he’s hardly alone.

5. I will spare you the Dwight Howard question, but stick with a hypothetical trade scenario for my final question.  If Mitch Kupchak could have a mulligan on the Lamar Odom trade, would he take it?  At the time it seemed sending Odom to Dallas was part of a larger plan, but as of yet no such plan has come to fruition.

I’d certainly like to think so. On the court and in the locker room, LO’s absence has left gaping holes still unfilled. Even recognizing his struggles in Dallas (caused in part by an admitted lack of offseason conditioning) and emotional nature (exacerbated by legitimate offseason tragedies), the guy would help the Lakers a lot. Were a time machine — hot tub or otherwise — made available to Mitch Kupchak, I’d be stunned if he didn’t set it to “Dec 11, 2011,” then told Lamar to take a few extra days to cool off because he’s staying put.

Thanks to Andy for the time and I hope everyone enjoys tonight’s game!

« Previous PageNext Page »