I donâ€™t think we can take things whole cloth from the Lakers sweep of Denver during the regular season. For one, all three games were played in January or earlier â€” before the Lakers made the Gasol trade. The Nuggets are not quite the same team as back then, either. Plus, in two of the three games Carmelo left early â€” he got tossed from one game (for choking Sasha) and was injured partway through another.
Still, there were some trends and things we can pick up. For example, the Nuggets didnâ€™t have a good one-on-one answer for Kobe, so they tried to trap and double him, and Kobe burned them with the pass in the last game. The Lakers bench was far superior in all the contests. The Lakers had a lot of scoring from the guards in these games â€” Kobe, Fisher, Farmar and Sasha had big games. The Lakers shot a high percentage in all the games. On offense, the Nuggets had success when they could get out and run. What hurt them was they just kept running one-on-one basketball in the half court.
Feel free to point out other thoughts as you read through a few notes from each of the games.
November 29: Lakers 127, Nuggets 99. The Lakers were a turnover machine in the first quarter and the results were Denver up by 20 early in the second quarter. But from there on the Lakers took care of the ball, had the game tied by half time and dominated the second half.
The Nuggets got those turnovers because they play a gambling defensive style, and it worked for them in part because they had Camby sitting in the paint to cover mistakes. However, after the Lakers stopped giving the Nuggets fast breaks points the Nuggets did try a zone for a while. Sasha Vujcaic almost beat that himself shooting over the zone.
The Nuggets showed they can be strong in the paint against the Laker bigs, both with Camby and with very quick doubles of post players. However, the Lakers had considerable success posting Kobe up. Kobe finished with 24, Sasha had 21 and five other Lakers were in double figures.
The Lakers bench, led by Sashaâ€™s scoring, was a big part of that win.
December 5: Lakers 111, Nuggets 106. The Lakers were in control from the opening tip through midway into the third quarter, when the Nuggets went on an 8-0 run to take the lead. Things seesawed until a 15-5 Laker run to end the game got them the win. The Lakers did that on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
The show belonged to Alan Iverson â€“ 51 points, eight assists and got to the free throw line 18 times. However, the Nuggets stuck with the one-on-one basketball, particularly in the first half, and thatâ€™s when the Lakers had their biggest leads. When Denver made a run in the third, the Nuggets were passing well.
Kobe had 25 despite a lot of quick doubles early, however late in the game they stopped trying to trap Kobe off the pick and roll and he finished them off. He was also hitting the open man with a pass when the double did come, which is why Radmanovic had 21 and Fisher had 20. The Lakers got big contributions from Bynum and Mihm in the paint, altering shots from the penetrating Nuggets.
January 21: Lakers 116, Nuggets 99. No Bynum, no Ariza and no Radmanovic for the Lakers, but LA jumps out early and has a comfortable lead from the second half of the first quarter through the middle of the third. Thatâ€™s when Denver tied the game with an 18-3 run, but the Lakers turned it on again and pulled away for the win.
The Nuggets stuck with the â€œdouble Kobe instantlyâ€ defensive system, and the result was Kobe taking just seven shots (hitting five) but he did have 11 assists. The PGs are the big scorers for the Lakers, Fish has 28 and Farmar 19, and the Lakers had good success with Fisher, Farmar and Kobe all on the floor at the same time (a lineup largely used when Camby was sitting).
The only real success the Nuggets had was when Walton was trying to cover Carmelo (this was also a game where Carlmelo went down with a sprained ankle).