FireGeorgeKarl’s Denver Nuggets-Los Angeles Lakers Game One Wrap-up
In the Nuggets first playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the usual Nuggets script against good “teams” (i.e. NBA ball clubs that actually play hard on both ends of the floor, run a cohesive offensive set, share the ball, are well-coached, don’t make mental errors, don’t rush shots, have good camaraderie and so on) on the road played out yet again. We’ve all seen this movie before. On the defensive end the Nuggets gave up too many easy baskets and too many points overall. On the offensive end, the offense was stagnant as all-too-often players just watched Carmelo Anthony force bad turnaround, fade away jump shots over two opponents, or watched Allen Iverson dribble too long while no one bothered to set picks or make any cuts to the basket. And, of course, J.R. Smith didn’t get nearly enough minutes, even though he – and Linas Kleiza – were completely unguardable when driving the ball to the basket.
That being said, the Nuggets did a couple of things really well that gave us a glimmer of hope in the games to come. As already mentioned, when they had Kleiza, Smith and Eduardo Najera on the floor together, they had the Lakers completely befuddled (and yes, I advised taking the ball to the hole as one of my keys to beating the Lakers in my playoff preview post). With those three bench players leading the way, the Nuggets quickly moved from a stagnant offense to a run-and-gun, drive-the-ball-to-the-basket offense. Even A.I. and Melo picked up on this, as when they (finally) started driving the ball to the basket themselves, the Nuggets began to eat into the Lakers lead. And the Nuggets aren’t missing 14 free throws again…at least they better not!
I also liked the defense on Bryant throughout the game. I know he ended up with 32 points, but both Kenyon Martin and Smith baited him into bad shots (evident in his 9-26 shooting night), and with the exception of a couple easy buckets, all of Bryant’s field goal makes were from the outside.
But from a macro perspective, Nuggets fans everywhere must be very concerned. A.I. and Melo each had 30 points, Bryant had one of his worst games in recent memory (in addition to the poor shooting, he only had 1 assist and 1 steal, that’s not happening again), and yet the Lakers still waxed the Nuggets – mostly in the second half. By trying to help his teammates after their matador defense failed them, Marcus Camby was routinely leaving Pau Gasol to help out, and Gasol crushed the Nuggets today.
I hope the Nuggets make the necessary adjustments ASAP, or Gasol will go down in history as one of the great Nuggets’ playoff killers in recent memory alongside Sam Cassell and Manu Ginobili.