Game Preview & Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Kurt —  November 29, 2007

Records: Lakers 8-6; Nuggets 9-6
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.0 (8th); Nuggets 106.6 (17th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers; 105.4 (13th); Nuggets 100.1 (2nd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf (please, no more Vlad), Andrew Bynum
Nuggets: Allen Iverson, Yakhouba Diawara, Linas Kleiza, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby

UPDATE: Phil Jackson has signed a two-year extension to coach the Lakers, likely at $11 or $12 million a year. I think this is good, providing some continuity and stability — plus he is a damn good coach. He’s gotten a lot out of this roster so far, and now things are starting to look brighter.

Thanks to Gatinho for the heads up.

Lakers Notes: In case you didn’t see it, Coby Karl was sent down to the D-Fenders of the D-League so he can get some run. The odds of George Karl attending the D-Fenders game this afternoon just increased dramatically.

The Lakers got a win against the Sonics Tuesday night but no style points were awarded. Kobe shot well early (hitting five of his first six) to keep the Lakers in it, then in the third quarter a few spurts — primarily with the starters on the floor but with Walton and Mihm in as well — put the game away.

Sometimes we can over think a win — and I don’t want to think too much about that game — so let’s just mention a couple things . First, Ronny Turiaf had a bounce back in his step, was a force on the defensive end and, in my mind, needs to be back in the starting lineup. Also, Lamar Odom shot 50% (eFG%) for the game, but only because of the wide-open meaningless lay-up he got as the game expired. He still looks lost and uncomfortable, and he needs to right that ship because the next three games the Lakers are going to need him.

The Nuggets Coming In: Coming into the year, I lumped the Lakers and Nuggets together in the West, saying that they would go as far as their defenses would take them. The Lakers defense has been average (a big improvement over last year) but the Nuggets have been a powerhouse — they are second in the league in defensive ratings.

I watched the Nuggets against the Clippers and they double on the post very quickly and have guys who can defend the paint — Marcus Camby as a starter and Eduardo Najera off the bench (he gave Kaman problems, and Kaman is playing well). (They would be even better with Nene and Kenyon Martin, but neither is expected to play tonight.) On the perimeter the Nuggets gamble a lot and create the most turnovers in the league (and that gets them easy buckets going the other way).

In offense, it’s all about Anthony and Iverson — they average 49 points a game between them. What Denver does is spread the floor out and try to isolate those guys (and other shooters like Linas Kleiza), there are not a lot of set plays. To defend them you have to keep balance on the floor and not collapse on the ball. And don’t let the role players get hot.

The Nuggets have lost three of their last four, and in all four games have shot less than 40%. The Clippers defended them pretty well (actually very well considering the injuries and roster they have left) but Denver missed some shots they should hit. Let us hope the cold streak continues.

Keys To The Game: This should be an entertaining barn burner — the Nuggets play at the fastest pace in the league (nearly 100 possessions a game) and the Lakers are not far back at sixth. I’d say bet the over but at 218 I might balk, still that number is in jeopardy.

The Lakers need to take care of the ball tonight — the Nuggets lead the league in turnovers and blocked shots, and they use that to fuel their pace. The Lakers need to slow it down a little and play under control.

The Nuggets offense is predicated on slashing and driving — Iverson is maybe the best at that in the league, Melo can do that or pull up and shoot from anywhere. They also set a lot of screens in transition or early in the shot clock, the Lakers need to defend that well tonight.

This is going to be a tough night for Bynum — Camby is a good defender and he may pick up fouls on a driving Iverson — but the Lakers should get good offensive nights from Kobe and likely Odom (especially if Melo is on him). They need to hit the midrange and three shots because points in the paint will be harder to come by.

Also, the Lakers and the Nuggets are both in the top six in the Association at getting to the free throw line. If one team can keep the other off the stripe it will be a huge advantage.

Tonight’s Game: Where Sir Charles Happens: This should be an entertaining game. If Odom really shows up and plays like he can, I see a Lakers win. If he remains off his game, well, then it will be a tough road for LA.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific) and it is TNT for all of us (no local coverage). Since the Lakers are the back end of the double header, I would think 7:45 is more like the actual start time. We need to make sure Sir Charles has time to talk.