On Tap: The Denver Nuggets

Kurt —  November 2, 2005

(For those readers new to Forum Blue & Gold, we do a preview of each game, giving you some things to look at both from the Lakers and their opponent. This is the first of at least 82 — hopefully more.)

I am pumped. Let’s get this season started.

Unlike some major college football power starting the season against a creampuff to sharpen their skills, the Lakers get a tough opening day assignment: Play up in the rarified air of Denver against a team that went 32-8 to close out last season and got their best outside shooter back for this campaign.

At least we get the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back, they lost to the Spurs last night. The Lakers also face a Nuggets team without Nene, who went down with a bad knee sprain — and maybe worse — in that opener. For his sake, especially since it’s a contract year for him, I hope it’s nothing serious.

Denver presents a difficult challenge for the Lakers because they go right after the expected weak spots of the Lakers defense — point guard and depth in the paint. (Whether or not those will be Laker weaknesses we shall see, but they are what needs to be improved from last season.) Even with Nene out the Nuggets roll out a very athletic front line of Carmelo Anthony at the three, Kenyon Martin at the four and Marcus Camby at the five, with Eduardo Najera off the bench.

Carmelo may be the one guy who benefited most from George Karl’s arrival. Early last season Melo’s numbers were down because he was out on the perimeter doing his Brian Cook imitation. Karl sent him back under the basket and told him to drive and not settle for the 15-footer — the result was his points per 40 minutes jumped from 21.9 before the All Star break to 27.6 after (got that stat from Hollinger’s book). That leads me to think the Lakers need to hire Karl for a day to have that same conversation with Kwame Brown.

One of the challenges Karl faces this season is how to get his three point guards — Andre Miller, Earl Watson and Earl Boykins — all plenty of playing time. Look for one of them (my guess is Miller) to spend some time at the two. The two was the glaring weak point for Denver last season, but this season Voshon Lenard is back — before he went down at the start of last season this was a good outside shooter, a career 38.6% from beyond the arc and a career eFG% of 49.5%. In the preseason he has gotten off to a slow start in the preseason (46.4% and 30% from beyond the arc) but if he finds his stroke he’ll bring back some points at the two.

For what it’s worth (and that’s not much), Denver was maybe the best team in the league in the preseason, compiling a 7-1 record. They had an offensive rating of 103.9 (points per 100 possessions) which is slightly better than last season, plus they had a team eFG% of 51.3 and shot 38.5% from three point range. More importantly, they held teams to a rating of 96.2, which would have been second best in the NBA last season, kept opponents shooting 45% and 26% from beyond the arc. All of which meant they still couldn’t beat the Spurs, who were 2-7 in the preseason.

Just like you don’t know what Denver’s (or San Antonio’s) preseason numbers mean when the games start to matter, we don’t really know what to expect from the Lakers. Their defense looked better and the offense smoother as the preseason wore on, but we really won’t know how that translates to real games for a while.

Which is why I can’t wait for tip-off. Let’s get this season going!

Kurt

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9 responses to On Tap: The Denver Nuggets

  1. i hope they traveled a day early to get a little used to the altitude. remember that utah game the 2nd game of last season? wooh that was nasty.

    kwame looked good against kenyon in the preseason, at least the game i saw [did they play them twice?]. hope it carries over.

    kinda nice not to expect a win. hopefully the team sees it as very freeing and a no-pressure challenge.

    here we go.
    let us pray.

  2. I’m excited; let’s get it on.

  3. Finally the season is underway. Something to get my head off the looney bin that is the Dodger front office.

  4. I’m intrigued to see if PJax really has truly changed his approach to his game coaching. Also intersted to see how bad he wants to win early on by watching how much he keeps his starters out there. This will be a season in which he can’t afford to let them “figure it out for themsleves” as he has in the past. Will he sit Mihm if he gets a ridiculously early foul?

    Lakers ’05: a return to relevance?

  5. you know, it might be better if the lakers lose tonight, if not both games this week. if they score an early knockout the press will be all over it and teams will be more wary when they see them creeping up on the schedule this month.

    having surprise as an early ally might even be necessary. i looked at this month’s itinerary and the only team i am fully confident the lakers can take is the hawks.

  6. call me the eternal optomist but I can’t really remember a time when a lose was ever good, but hopefully the lakers will execute and if they lose then fine but I just want to see them execute the game plan and have as few mistakes as possible. Only a couple more hours left till tip off.

  7. heh. before the draft lottery losses could be very, very good.

    you gotta learn the zen mind games, man…

    hey, if they get a win i’ll love every soundbite and article it generates. it’s not so ridiculous.

  8. Great matchup for the Lakers to open the season. Denver’s plethora of point guards, all with different styles will challenge the Laker’s defensively.

    I am very interested to see how the players and coaching staff respond.

    Nice preview!

  9. hahahahaha…

    lord that was UGLY.