Game Preview & Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Kurt —  January 21, 2008

Records: Lakers 26-12 (5th seed); Nuggets 24-15 (4th seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (6th); Nuggets 109.4 (14th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (7th); Nuggets 105.3 (6th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown
Nuggets: Allan Iverson, Anthony Carter, Linas Kleiza, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby

Yes, the records and seedings are right: If the playoffs started today, the Lakers and Nuggets would meet in the first round. The Nuggets would have the higher seed — as the leaders of their division they can be no lower than fourth — however the Lakers, with their better record, would have home court advantage.

Lakers Notes: As some backup at center, the Lakers signed 7-0 big body DJ Mbenga to a 10-day contract today. This is a solid 10-day pickup, a guy who can provide some defense and depth — he averaged 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes his last year in Dallas and is a decent help defender. He is not a great rebounder for his height but he will get some boards. He will give us no offense. But rather than taking a big risk, the Lakers are playing it smart and seeing if DJ can provide a patch for a week or two until Mihm gets back.

Now, on to the injury report. I’m not a doctor, but I play one on this blog.

Trevor Ariza broke his fourth metatarsal bone in his foot. The metatarsals are the five long bones in the forefoot which connect the ankle bones to those of the toes. The fourth one is the for the toe next to the little toe. Healing depends on the severity of the break, but recovery lasts four to eight weeks. So, expect Bynum and Ariza to be back about the same time.

Chris Mihm is also a couple weeks away. Bynum is out. It would be nice if Radmanovic can play as he torched the Nuggets last meeting. And I just got carpal tunnel typing up the Lakers injuries.

The Nuggets Coming In: Denver’s isolation basketball that relies on Iverson and Melo continues to work pretty well — they are 6-4 in their last 10. Melo has four double-doubles this month (the stat, not the In-N-Out burger) and Iverson consistently leads the team in scoring. Linas Kleiza has had some hot games of late (he had 41 a couple games ago) being the open spot up guy with two other slashers who draw the attention. Read more about him from David Thorpe in an interview at True Hoop.

It is really Marcus Camby that makes the Nuggets work, however. Without his great backstopping defense in the paint the Nuggets would try to get in a shootout every night, but Camby can take away the paint (Bynum had just two points against him last meeting) and that forces other teams into more jump shots than they would like. The result is one of the better records in the West.

Last Time These Two Met: Back on Dec. 5 Alan Iverson put up 51, Melo had 26 and the Lakers still won, thanks to 15-5 run to end the game. While the Nuggets are a good defensive team the Lakers shot 53.6% (eFG%) for the game. Vladamir Radmanovic was a key part of that, hitting 6 of 9 three pointers on his way to 21 points on a sharp-shooting night for him.

In the first meeting of the year, the Lakers sported the Nuggets a 17-point lead by turning the ball over every chance they got. But when they took care of the ball they took care of the game and won.

Keys To The Game: If you were going to be without your high-scoring center for a game, this is not a bad one — he wasn’t going to score a ton against Marcus Camby, one of the best defensive centers in the game. (Last meeting Bynum had just two points against Camby.)

In part tonight depends on what Nuggets team shows up — when focused on defense and moving the ball on offense they are one of the best teams in the NBA. But that team only shows up sporadically, sometimes for just a quarter or less. No way of predicting this squad.

One thing the Nuggets are starting to get is play from their bench. In the first two Lakers win against the Nuggets the bench was key — it was Farmar and Bynum off the pine that started to turn the first meeting around, last game it was some key players off the bench that ensured the Lakers win (although the starters did a lot of damage). The depleted Lakers bench needs to find a way to step up tonight because J.R. Smith and others have started to step up more for the Nuggets lately.

This needs to be a big night for Kwame and Turiaf — the Nuggets are a team that likes to drive the lane, and in the process get a lot of fouls. Iverson and Melo can get by anyone outside (best to make them shoot from there if possible) but the Lakers need to block and alter some shots without fouling.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). We get a choice here in LA between the Fox Sports broadcast and the national TNT version. But, if you live in Boise, you’re stuck with Chuck (and a lot of “fav five” commercials).

55 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The Denver Nuggets

  1. Does anyone know whether Mbenga will be mbanging the mboards tonight? Not sure how those 10-day contracts work, whether he needs to pass a physical, etc.

  2. Anyone else think we need a new training staff/team doctors?

  3. Gary Viti has been the Lakers trainer since the 1980s, through Showtime and the Shaq/Kobe titles. But I’m sure it’s his fault that Andrew Bynum went up for a rebound and landed on Odom’s foot twisting his knee. And that Fisher stepped on Ariza’s foot and broke a bone. And that Ben Wallace fell into Kwame’s knee earlier this year. And I saw Viti on the grassy knoll….

  4. Lamar Odom is back! January 21, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    #2-Of Course! Gary Vitti is highly suspect. Kurt, you, too, nailed it on the head! First of all his name sounds made up. Take it from me, as someone who used to pretend to be “The Goods” (but who later gave it up because Kurt kept deleting my comments and, well, “The Goods” turned to “The Saboteur”) Gary Vitti is a phony. Maybe we should build a package around Vitti and Kwame, I’m sure someone will take it. I hear that McHale is a sucker, let’s give him a call.

  5. I’ve heard from a reliable source that Viti is a member of the Illuminatti, and a Freemason. his family is from the original secret society of medical doctors who had to go underground and hide from the church or else go on trial for witchcraft…it’s true, really.

    seriously, aren’t our Lakers a lot of fun to watch? kind of like the morbid curiosity of a car wreck, or a soap opera in a weird way. for instance, Kwame…there’s no doubt that he was in the middle of a sh*tstorm last week with the boos, and everything. you know tonight has to be like getting back on a horse that bucked you for Kwame. I really hope he plays well, finds a groove, hits some freethrows….actually, that might be the key for him tonight, if he could get some confidence in his FT’s, he might slow down a bit when he gets the ball down low, and if he takes his time a bit more, he might have a few less TO’s, and mishandles.

  6. Wasn’t there a Gary Viti chapter in “The DaVinci Code?”

  7. don Vitialone, …I thought he was supposed to get the “other” guys keep caps broken.

  8. Lamar Odom is back! January 21, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    A friend of mine once said, “If I were the owner of an NBA team I’d tell the players that they will not get paid until they can hit their free throws.” He was not a basketball fan, but he made a great point. If there were some financial incentive built into a player’s contract we might never again witness a player shooting below 55% from the line. That’s just embarrassing.

  9. Clever, well written, and extremely thoughtful and insightful comments all around. And it was really necessary to say the same thing 5 different ways, as if it wasn’t clever enough the first time. Hats off to comment 8, however. Sarcasm aside, that actually was clever.

    Now all BS aside, I think what I’m getting at is trying to figure out why this same thing with injuries happens 2 years in a row, at the exact same time of the year, and it’s always worst case scenarios for everyone involved (6-8 weeks). OBVIOUSLY the injuries themselves are accidents. Duh, no sh*t. With my initial comment, I wasn’t implying that it is Gary Vitti’s fault Bynum was injured, or Ariza was injured, or Vlad Rad was injured, or Sasha was injured, or Mihm was injured again, or Kwame was injured again…Rather, I wonder why these players take so much longer to get back into the games than any of the other teams injured players. It seems like the only teams who have had worse injuries to and recovery times for their players are the Clippers and the Bobcats.

    So I wonder then, because obviously the most important thing is taking care of the players in the long run and protecting their careers. But, while I’m not actually sure of the exact circumstances, wasn’t the problem with Chris Mihm last season that they misdiagnosed his initial injury, which led him to miss the season? On top of that, he still hasn’t healed properly. Now I remember reading somewhere that Trevor Ariza has a history of foot problems, which they knew upon acquiring him. So that being the case, wouldn’t you think they’d take measures to prevent him from injuring his feet? Or at least trying something to protect him more? Same thing with Bynum and his knees: if they knew he had that issue with his knees, shouldn’t they have done conditioning to make them stronger? Now I’m not a doctor nor am I claiming any kind of medical knowledge, but you would think that one of the functions of the training staff is not only to help players heal quickly and efficiently once they’ve been injured, but also to take measures to prevent more injuries, especially on players who are known to have a history with them.

    I figure a complete overhaul of the medical staff, besides being pretty unrealistic, isn’t gonna fix things in the short term anyway. However, you can’t underestimate their role in all these injury problems. It’s just something that bugs me.

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of this blog. I’ve never posted before today. I was hoping my comment would generate some interesting discussion but what resulted couldn’t be any further from what I’d hoped. That being said, perhaps now that I’ve elaborated on my thoughts people could offer theirs on the subject as well. But I’d prefer insightful comments, rather than more of the same crap.

    After all, we are all Laker fans…wondering how things could go from being so unbelievably great to so terribly wrong in about a week, and hoping our severely depleted team could hold their ground and pull through.

  10. The Dude Abides January 21, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    The Lakers medical staff is closely affiliated with Kerlan-Jobe, which is one of the two or three leading sports medicine groups in the country. They invented Tommy John surgery, after all. So, I wouldn’t say that the reason for the injuries is the medical staff/training staff.

  11. I take offense sir anonymous, my attempts at humour, calling it “the same crap”.
    we all need a sense of humour about now, don’t you think?
    In response to your post, I do not think there are any deficiencies with our medical staff.
    right now you are looking at what you percieve as failures of the staff…
    what about all the successes they’ve had over the years?
    I will give you that it’s weird that there are again a rash of injuries at the same time of the year, and with the team at about the same (surprisingly good) record.
    But injuries are just one of those things, if you try to avoid it, you’ll probably wind up getting hurt sooner, it’s one of those things you try not to think about too much, (or the fear itself will get ya).
    I think this time around will be different.
    the rest of the team will grow from this time with Andrew and Trevor out, and when they come back, there will be enough time, and with our great coaching and medical staff (had to say that) we’ll be able to develop into a team playing the best ball of the season at the best time of the season.

  12. Lamar Odom is back! January 21, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Anonymous, I apologize. I thought you were joking. But I see your point now. At the time I was writing my insightful comment I also thought to myself, “didn’t they also misdiagnose Karl Malone the year he and Payton joined the Lakers?” That may have caused us a championship. Anonymous, I think you’re on to something. Why don’t you identify yourself? Otherwise the rest of the insightful Laker fans will get conspiracy crazy and think you’re actually a trainer looking to oust Vitti in order to land his job.

  13. 10. If these injuries were due to wear and tear it is one thing, but Ariza had his foot stepped on in practice. We’ve all played basketball, that has happened to all of us, And it hurts, And if a guy is big enough or moving fast enough, there can be a break. Bynum worked out all summer to improve his muscle mass and get in better condition, but he had a fluke landing. These things do just happen. It sucks, but the timing is better now then closer to the playoffs. This team can survive just fine for a couple months, get healthy and in a groove in March and April and then they are a threat.

  14. Hey, maybe we can get this guy?

  15. I’ll say this– Vitti looks way more demonic now that he shaved off his honky baldy afro and 70s porn ‘stache.

    Before, All American dad. Now, vengeful ex-con…

  16. The idea that the training staff has something to do with these injuries is spectacularly ludicrous.

    In other news I love the Lakers win and to do it with the total under 223.

    Bad things come in threes, so we have to hope that the next injury is to Kurt Rambis when he cuts himself shaving his preposterous ‘stache.

  17. I posted those two anonymous comments. I didn’t figure to come up with a name because I don’t expect to post often. But hopefully this one isn’t taken and it’s here for me from now on when I do post.

    Anyway, the first thing I tried to think when all this stuff happens is at least it’s in January and not in March or April, and of course I’d rather have Bynum and Ariza miss 8 weeks and come back healthy then, as opposed to rushing back early and re-injuring themselves before the playoffs. I guess I’m just trying to find some logic in all this stuff, because it’s such a bummer. Especially with this upcoming stretch of the schedule. But as Laker fans we owe it to ourselves to try to remain optimistic. One thing that can’t be questioned is that despite the injuries, we do have a far superior team this year.

    Anyway I’m off, enjoy the game everyone.

  18. The question is, how will the fans respond to Kwame tonight after Farmar, Walton, and Kobe came to his defense.

    Will PJ pulls him if he struggles again?

  19. 19. I’m very curious to see that as well. And if he struggles will the crowd turn on him (if it was with him at all)?

  20. You know, I’d really like to see Ronny start and bring Kwame in off the bench, giving him a chance to fire him and the crowd up. He’s an energetic guy and he seems to do best when less pressure is on him. I really don’t understand why fans boo their own player. Players are people and if they’re booed, it will have some effect on them, especially a sensitive guy like Kwame, do you think that’s going to motivate him to play better? I’d like to see Phil give Ronny a chance starting, especially because Ronny has more offensive tools.

  21. Walton covering Carmelo scares me. A lot. The Nugs are smart to isolate that.

  22. and a 9-0 run as soon as Turiaf replaces Walton.

  23. On offense, the Lakers are exposing Iverson’s slow rotations. Fish and Farmar are looking good doing it.

  24. kobe hasn’t taken a shot yet?????

  25. and they’re winning by 14 points hmmm

  26. kobe’s passing is sensational!

  27. Thoroughly enjoyed the first quarter. As far as the “were the boos worth it” debate goes, I think we can say they’ve had a positive impact so far this game. Kwame looks a little more focused, and I love Lamar’s efforts to get him easy looks.

  28. ouch for melo… maybe it’s the staples center that’s the suspect…

  29. what happened to melo im watching gamecast

  30. 28. Melo took a little post fade away over Kobe but landed on Kobe’s foot and rolled his ankle. It looked pretty bad, but it’s hard to tell.

  31. Lakers up at halftime. They are playing with energy and thats exactly what i’ve been writing about recently. Ronny and Farmar will be providing energy and we will be heavily relying on them to keep the team’s momentum going.

  32. I hope Phil will call his TOs early over the next few weeks. One ill-timed run by the other team is usually enough to get them back into the game or into the lead no matter how late. I think it is important the players work through tough stretches themselves but the Lakers can slip easily in the West even if we loose a few games in a row.

  33. Fisher is game MVP, by far.

    Where would this team be without his stability?

    Oh, glimpses of DJ Mbenga on the bench. Can’t wait to see how he’ll do.

  34. Man, I love watching Kobe play.

    But I tuned in late – why isn’t he shooting and where is Carmelo?

  35. Ronny’s +/- : +35
    Kwame’s +/-: -14
    enough said.

    5 mins left and the jello’s jigglin

  36. mbenga looks better than kwame!!!!

    they are both stiffs offensively but mbengas got length and blocks nice…smoother athlete too

  37. ROFL linas kleiza trying to deny the fans the tacos.

  38. The whole taco thing losty some of its shine to me when they showed a man in the front row yelling about how he wants his taco and it occured to me that if he could afford a front row seat, he could probably buy 3 jackin the boxes with the cash in his wallet, Where’s MY taco?

  39. @35

    Kobe isn’t shooting because the nuggets were doubling every chance they get so he passed it off. He didn’t get into a rhythm but doesn’t matter because Fish/Farmar burned the Nuggets.

    Mbenga looks like he can be a good defender. It doesn’t seem like he has his legs but he can time blocks. Hope he gets some jump into him soon. We’ll need all our bigs to defend against TD at San Antonio.

  40. Kwame A. called it the other day. That Fisher-Kobe-Farmar lineup was very fun to watch. Hope Phil goes small like that more often.

  41. Some comments looking at the box score:

    Amazing game by Fisher.

    How is it that despite shooting 15 times Farmar has 0 ft attempts? I guess eight of the shots were for 3, did he not penetrate at all for the rest of the shots?

    Its great to see Kobe in double figures in assists but 6 turn overs is very worrying. It seems to me that he often goes for the spectacular pass so when they work out they are on sportscenter, but is it worth it?

  42. JONES,
    The 2 Pgs and a SG seems to be a new NBA trend. I wonder if it’s because it is harder to find a legit second complemetary 2/3,or if it’s an indirect result of so many shoot-first PGs coming out of college.
    Conventional wisdom is SG/SF’s who can score are a dime a dozen,but how many teams have 2 legitimate scorers at the 2 and 3 ? Boston w/Pierce and Allen,maybe Charlotte,but for the rest…
    A SG/SF combo should get their shots easier than a PG/SG pair. Conventional wisdom may be wrong again.

  43. The Lakers played disciplined team basketball–and it paid off. The defense was not yet what it could be, but it was still tacos at Staples–and the fans were happy. Kobe set the stage. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers had 39. Kobe: 0. (no, that wasn’t a typo). By the end of the game, Kobe was 17 and 11. Lamar had another of his looney games, with very poor shooting percentages, but great assists and rebounds.

    The team as a whole feasted on three pointers–and yes, Mr. Oh! No! Dumb! took 3–and missed them all. Shooting percentage on threes overall was still high, with Fish and Farmar doing the biggest damage.

    Quote from ESPN:

    “Kwame Brown, booed every time he touched the ball during a difficult third quarter in the Lakers’ previous game, was cheered early in this one, especially after a pair of dunks in the opening 3½ minutes. Brown, Bynum’s replacement at center, had seven points and a season-high 11 rebounds.”

    This was a great win for the team. Mbenga didn’t look that Mbad.

  44. Regarding this Jack in the Box taco business: Has anyone ever actually tried to eat one of those monstrosities? A while back my roommates bet me 20 bucks to eat 10 of them in one sitting. I had never had them before, and I’m not one to back down from a pointless bet, so I figured let’s do this. The first one was the most disgusting thing I’d ever eaten. I was absolutely convinced that there was mustard in it. By the time I got to 3 and a half it became very clear that there was no way I could come close to finishing the challenge. And it wasn’t at all about the quantity, strictly the quality. The lesson: You can put “free” before dog feces and some people will get excited.

    Taco-tangent aside, very satisfying win. Getting 47 points from the PG position is a huge reminder that this is not 06-07 (something that the last couple games had me wondering about).

  45. Kobe had fun tonight, being the 3rd leading scorer on our team, and still won!

    The MVP thing, the making your teammates better thing, and the whole summer, seems to have a profound impact on Kobe’s play this season.

    He’s obviously atoning for throwing everyone under the bus, seems to have matured from the experience, got some perspective and vented during USA Basketball, genuinely believes that grass can’t be any greener, and just realized that he has yet to win an MVP and is now willing to work for it.

    Well, at least I hope something happened and that the Kobe we have now lasts.

  46. It was great to see tacos happen again to the Nuggs. Especially after George Karl’s comments in November at Staples. It’s like he’s single-handedly cursed his team with tacos.

  47. Biggest story of the game for me was mentioned above (23)…Turiaf came in for Walton twice and the Lakers respond with huge runs, at the end of the first and the end of the third.

    Also, it was great to see Coby Karl get some burn against his Dad’s team, albeit with a few miscues. It’s easy to forget how great a story his recovery is.

  48. 45/ man, you must be living a quite decent life there bro, i remember when i was in college jack-in-the-box dollar menu basically was my diet…

    it aint half bad really if you think about it. 99cents for TWO taco man… TWO… ahahahaha! chicken sandwiches and jumbo jack aint half bad either… but i did live off those “nasty” thing for two years…

  49. I was a little confused when i read drrayeye’s comment about lamar’s low shooting % and then i went to look at the box and he was 4-12. i thought his 1st qtr was maybe his best of the year offensively. one possesion he had a wide wide open 3 look, passed inside instead, and i want to say eventually got the ball back and took it to the hole. he missed his 1st jumper and then went constantly to the basket (cutting w/out the ball too) the rest of the quarter creating baskets for himself and others. i noticed he faded the rest of the game once they stopped doubling kobe, but i didn’t notice the 4-12 overall. but he still got to the line, had 7 assists and contributed in the big run at the end. both the offense and defense were a little inconsistent tonight, but they still played flashes of their best ball since andrew went down.
    also, i liked how both the big (lo, ronny, kwame) and small lineups (various 3 guard combos) made up for andrew’s absence. the 3 guard lineups may be a little small, but it’s not like luke gives us any real size anyway. but when we’re small, we shoot well from 3 and can get to the hole. when we’re big we can rebound, ronny can block the occasional shot inside and we still have big men to throw it to besides kwame. phil at least still has some matchup options even with all these injuries.
    last thought- why have the injury updates on vlad just stopped? are the lakers even perplexed as to when the martian will come back to earth?

  50. I love seeing Kobe pass like that. A little bit too giving, especially with a midget guarding him and some of those doubles coming slow, but hell if I’ll complain. Awesome.

    If he plays with more of this kind of mindset, then yeah, I think he would win MVP. There would be a distinct change in his game that everybody would notice, and if the team improved dramatically along with his APG that would present a very strong case for him.

    And his shooting percentage would go up as well.

  51. 50 – Vlad is expected to hit the Lakers road trip on January 31st.

    The small line-up dominates, here’s why. You have Kobe, Farmar, LO, and Fisher or Sasha on the court. All four of these guys can kill you off the dribble. 3 of the four can kill you behind the arc (sorry Lamar). If you do not have a shot-block threat, your team will get eaten alive. Defense collapses to help the dribble drive, slasher either goes to the hole or dishes outside for an open 3. Note, the Lakers switched to this line-up when Camby sat. This was the adjustment PJ had to make going into the 4th quarter as he discussed on TNT last night.

    PJ should definitely consider going with this line-up against SA when Duncan is not on the court. Who is going to block shots? Horry?

  52. I was really excited to see some fire from Lamar tonight, looking angry at himself for missing easy buckets while getting fouled and whatnot. Also a really great night for Kobe, could’ve cut down on the turnovers but if he’s going to be so unselfish I’m willing to live with it. Also a great message to the guys that if you’re going to hit your shots and finish the opportunities that Kobe gives you, he’ll keep giving you the ball. We did take 25 threes, but a lot of them were decent looks and we shot 44% overall.

    Ronny’s +/- must have been out of this world, seemed like every time he came in we went on a huge run.

    I’m definitely biased, but does anyone else see a problem with OJ Mayo wearing a Yankees cap in Staples? Dodgers/Angels, anyone?

  53. 43) Stephen,
    The Bulls (under Jackson) played a lot of “three guard” rotations, although most of their’s were bigger.

  54. I like the different rotations you have all come up with for the Lakers. I think its so funny to read how every fan becomes a pro coach 10 minutes after the actual coach puts those guys on the floor to succeed together. YOU GOT THE IDEA CUZ PHIL MADE IT HAPPEN… LOL

    either way, san antonio is a tough matchup for any lineup the lakers put out becuz they are a deep team and have guards that play real defense, not like those guards the nuggets throw at you