3-0 Means…..

Kurt —  April 17, 2008

I don’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 — 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 — 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 didn’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 — 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 Sasha’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 – 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 that’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. That’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 “double Kobe instantly” 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).

Kurt

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76 responses to 3-0 Means…..

  1. Kurt, did you mean “Bynum and Turiaf” for the Dec 5th game. I don’t remember Mbenga and Bynum playing together at all.

  2. this series is going to come down to one important aspect (at least in the lakers’ case)……DEFENSE…..i don’t think the nuggets have that word in their vocabulary, so if the lakeshow plays some d (and that includes ending it w/a defensive board), carmelo and ai will get theirs and the lakers will get the win……..

  3. 1. I meant Mihm, who started that game, not Mbenga. But I often get those two confused because they look so much alike…..

    Turiaf did not play in that game.

  4. 2. I think people underestimate Denver’s defense — for the season they gave up 107.5 points per 100 possessions, which is 9th in the NBA. The Lakers give up 107.1.

    I think this mistake is made for two reasons. First, the Nuggets play at the fastest pace in the league, they give up a lot of points per game because a lot of points are scored in their games, it is very up and down (something the Lakers have to control). Second, the Nuggets have what you would call in statistics a “big standard deviation” on defense, or in basketball terms they are inconsistent. With Camby in the paint they go for steals on the wings and try to get out and run. When that works they are formidable, but if your ball handlers can handle the pressure and make the extra pass you can expose them for those risks. Some teams can do that, others can’t, so on some nights the Nuggets look like world beaters and the next like passive players.

  5. Don’t forget about JR Smith. He’s been doing really well for himself as of late.

  6. Gosh, I really don’t know what to think about what to expect. I think a sweep would be just as likely as a 7-gamer.

  7. But I’m leaning towards the sweep…

  8. #4–your point is valid w/in the realm of the 100 possession games………past results clearly show the lakers in poor form when they venture into this realm.

    so, if the lakers play some “d” and avoid poor offensive sets (i.e. turnovers or excessive 3pt shots) leading to nugget runouts, they should be fine….in short, they need to impose their style of play on the nuggets. that said, carmelo and ai will still get theirs or close to it, but that alone will not be enough in the half court set….

  9. 8. I think you hit the nail on the head about “imposing their style,” that is a key to the series. If we play their out of control game, they win. If we stay in our system, we win.

  10. I don’t think it will be a sweep. Its a hard series to predict because Denver is so inconsistent. I agree with Kurt though, if the Lakers take care of the ball and stop Den from getting into transition, then it shouldn’t be a long series.

    I’d say 4-1 Lakers. Iverson is good for one win. He did it against the Lakers in 2002, stopping their undefeated post season.

  11. Kurt, I read you on Hardwood Paroxysm. Funny that you pick Dyan Cannon. I met her for a few days because my friends were being filmed for a documentary by her. She’s a quack, her documentary is simple and childish, and she is pretty obnoxious in general. She carries her little dog around everywhere. Most importantly, she doesn’t know a thing about the Lakers. My favorite quote, “I was there when he scored 82 points.” She didn’t even forgot who Smushy was, forget the history.

    Girl needs to watch the surgery; she’s the youngest looking seventy year old I’ve ever seen. She could pass for forty if you never saw her hands.

    Lakers in 5.

  12. She *forgot who Smush was.

  13. the other Stephen April 17, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    i don’t see how after a season like this one, someone like AI or Melo can just take lying down and losing to the lakers quietly. if the nuggets have any respect for themselves, their teammates, city, and fans, and a shred of professionalism, they’ll pull their mindset together and give us some trouble. and i expect them to do that. i’ll be surprised if we sweep them.

  14. 10 – The Sixers and Iverson stunned the Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals, not 2002 as you noted. The Lakers beat the Nets in 2002.

    A blog poster mixing up a year like this is totally forgivable. But I have to make fun of Sports Illustrated and its huge staff of researchers who are supposed to catch mistakes like that. Its new edition says Robert Horry’s famous shot to beat the Kings helped the Lakers “to avoid elimination in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.” Sorry, Jack McCallum, but Horry’s shot was at the end of Game 4, not 6.

  15. You’d think after picking L.A. to finish 9th this season, Sports Illustrated might try to exercise some caution in their subsequent Lakers coverage.

    As noted, the Nuggets are a tough team to predict. But this much is certain: while they have their brilliant moments here and there, they have never once shown an ability to play ABOVE their potential. And that’s what they will have to do to beat the Lakers. This is why I think they are the best possible draw in the first round. The last thing you want is to play a team with more heart than talent (just ask Dallas about that).It’s much better to face a team that is in the habit of letting down its fans.

  16. I’m saying Lakers in five as well, Denver is too talented to get swept..
    As long as we work the inside-outside game with Gasol and have Odom crash the boards and do his drives and dishes and we should be in the driver’s seat throughout the series. Get K-Mart and Camby into foul trouble early and we’ll quickly see the pace of the game favour us. That’s when Kobe will take over and neutralize AI and Melo…
    And please guys stop jacking up 3′s all the time!

  17. I haven’t really stopped to think about the matchups too deeply, but my initial thoughts:

    1. On defense, we are fortunate that Denver does not have any offensive big men that could expose softness in the middle without Bynum. I am still worried about help defense against Melo/Iverson and Camby’s rebounding, but I’d prefer to not see Amare and Duncan until Bynum is back (despite Pau’s strong showing against Duncan last game).

    2. We need to be careful with becoming too 3 happy, which will be tempting given shots created on the break and mini break by the pace and Denver’s tendency to lose focus defensively. If we start jacking 3s, it might lead to lots of long misses and catalyze Denver’s running game.

    3. Let’s sag off Camby and Martin and let them have the 20 footer — which they don’t want to take but seem anxious to prove they can make. Let’s also invite Iverson and Melo to shoot the pull up jumper, but stick with all other shooters and force them to drive (Smith, Kleiza, Atkins, etc.).

    4. Odom on Melo and Radmanovic/Walton on Martin? Melo would destroy our usual 3s with speed and strength on his quick posts and offensive rebounding. Maybe we put Odom on him and let our 3s deal with Martin/Najera.

  18. The league’s single best 5 man unit defensively is … Denver’s combination of Iverson, Diawara, Melo, Martin, Camby (measured by points per possession). Number 6 is Iverson, Smith, Kleiza, Najera, Camby.

    http://82games.com/USORT7.HTM

    The league’s single worst turnover unit? Denver: Iverson, Smith, Melo, Martin, and Camby.

    Looks like on shear net point differential per 48 minutes, their most effective lineup is Iverson, Smith, Melo, Najera, and Camby (good for the 7th best lineup in the league).

    Interesting that all of Denver’s best lineups occur with Iverson at the point.

  19. I believe that the lakers will win the series in 5 as well. Has anyone heard any news about Ariza? Will he be included in the playoff roster? Also, can Phil change the playoff roster after each series?

  20. let’s hold them to under 99 per and i think we are alright.

  21. Interesting article on Bynum’s development:
    http://tinyurl.com/6nsufq

    I’m not expecting to see Bynum again until October. I think if he doesn’t show improvement in the next 2-3 weeks, they’re going to shelve him till next year, which would be the right move. With our current roster, we have championship potential. If Bynum’s healthy, we have dynasty potential. That’s not worth risking for one playoff run. I don’t expect him back this year. Ditto for Ariza.

  22. My bracket:

    EAST
    Celtics 4-0 Hawks (Average score 137-12)
    Pistons 4-2 Sixers (Philly will put up a fight)
    Magic 4-3 Raptors (Tough matchup, Raps could win)
    Wizards 4-2 Cavs (Big Ben & Wally World? See ya ‘Bron)

    Celtics 4-2 Wizards (Wiz have bothered the Celts)
    Pistons 4-2 Magic (D of Sheed, Tayshaun will bother Dwight, Hedo)

    WEST
    Lakers 4-1 Nuggets (Nugs have no answer for Kobe, Odom, Gasol)
    Mavs 4-3 Hornets (Dirk’s got his swagger back)
    Suns 4-3 Spurs (Battle Royal, 3rd best ’08 playoff series)
    Jazz 4-2 Rockets (McGrady’s no 4th-quarter killer like Kobe, LeBron)

    Lakers 4-2 Jazz (Stick it to Hollinger & everyone else riding Utah bandwagon)
    Suns 4-3 Mavs (Another great series)

    CONFERENCE FINALS
    Celtics 4-3 Pistons (Low-scoring battle; Celtics want it more)
    Lakers 4-3 Suns (Kobe vs. Shaq, Lakers’ revenge, best ’08 series)

    FINALS
    Celtics 4-3 Lakers (We’re not there yet; motivation for next year; 2nd best ’08 series)

  23. Nuggets Bench

    J.R. Smith: Extremely deep 3pt range, has no hesitation or shyness. He can get on long hot streaks and has had some monster quarters recently (a couple of 20pt. quarters in the last couple weeks). The lakers must close out on him at all times, he will only shoot 3’s or dunk (ridiculous alley-oops), make him take mid-range shots or pass the ball, neither of which he is good at or likes to do. Another thing is to go at him offensively, he gets frustrated when he gets a couple fouls.

    Eddy Najera: A vastly improved shooter, including 3pt range. He does a lot for them, and his presence (along with J.R. Smith) with Iverson, Melo and Camby is probably their best lineup (6th best 5 man lineup in the NBA that has played at least 100 mins together according to 82games.com). He not only can stetch the floor, he is a Turiaf-type in that he can keep balls alive on the board, takes the charge, and is a ‘glue’ guy.

    Kleiza: He has been Laker nemesis in recent seasons, going off on Kobe for big chunks of points. He is good in transition, a strong finisher. He helps spread their offense by hitting the three and he is an underrated defender.

    Nene: He made it back from cancer surgery and has had some good moments already. He brings the most physical presence on their team, providing some post defense toughness and post offense for them.

    I think the bench play is gonna be key in this series. Sasha has a tough match-up in J.R, hopefully he can get in his head like he did Melo. Smith, and Turiaf will have to match Najera’s energy and impact. Farmar will be playing AI a lot because, well, AI never comes out. Walton will have to try to stay in front of Kleiza and post him up on the other end. All in all, I think our bench will not allow Denver’s bench to tilt things in the Nuggets favor, and our starters will be able to destroy theirs.

  24. I like your predictions Matt, I would say about the same thing, except I think the Pistons will beat the Celts, and I’m a homer so I think the Lakers can win it, ha.

  25. Denver finished 9th in defensive efficiency, but if you looked at those rankings only a few weeks earlier, they were as high as 5th. To fall that far in such a short time means they were just awful down the stretch. Perhaps their defense was underrated earlier in the season (they did have some very good defensive games) but for the last month or so they absolutely lived up (down?) to their reputation as a terrible defensive team and were definitely one of the worst in the league. By all accounts the Lakers’ offense should carve them up (similar to the way Utah has their last two games against Denver).

    Their pace does make it seem like they’ve been a worse defensive team than they are, but it also disguises the fact that their offense is actually not very good (outbursts like their 168 points aside). They don’t crack the top 10 in efficiency, Iverson often tries to do too much and Melo is still for the most part a ball stopper. They have no dependable shooters (Smith is as streaky as it gets and he doesn’t pass either) and Camby can be reduced to taking that awkward looking shot on the perimeter.

    The only reason I don’t see the Lakers sweeping this is because the Nuggets have managed to steal one from San Antonio twice. This will probably be the fifth year in a row that Denver gets bounced in 5 games though, which puts Melo pretty close to T-mac territory.

  26. If we play the Pistons I think we’ve got a shot.

    Also I should probably say for the record that I picked UCLA over UNC, so it’s not like I’m Nostradamus or anything.

  27. matt,
    As I read the ESPN article above about Andrew Bynum I thought of another high-school player who went through much the same territory and had quite a number of problems – possibly because of it – Kobe Bryant!

    Aside from Kobe’s driven personality – that is quite a big aside, I realize – Kobe was thrown in with a bunch of veterans who wanted him to conform to their way of doing things and he was basically rejected by the leader of the group (Shaq). He was isolated for trying to learn his craft and presuming that he had as much talent as any of them. He was ridiculed because he didn’t have the ‘away’ skills to handle ‘hanging out’ when on the road. His every move was subjected to extreme media scrutiny. This driven, selfish, self-absorbed kid really presumed he belonged to a star group in the NBA – how dare he. Then the S.O.B. would cut out some opponents heart without thinking twice – where did he get the gall?

    Great talents (mental or physical) are always hard to get along with. For one thing, they are different from the rest of us and that means we tend to try to pound them down, like the gopher game. The fact that we can’t, really p*sses us off and marks them as being further out of bounds.

  28. P.S.
    My previous comment is another reason I think high school players should wait 2 yrs before being drafted by the NBA. Very few do not need to grow up a bit and we need to think about the majority, not the Lebron James’ of the world.

  29. 28-I agree, but NCAA are crooks, those kids, such as Mayo deserve to be paid, the NBA is bordering on forced amaturism, and they essentially want a free minor leauges. The NCAA gets huge 12 billion dollar tv contracts, and the kids get a fake education. The current state of things are a farce, we need to follow the European Academy model, its the fairest thing to do.

  30. Someone’s been reading Sonny Vaccaro. :)

  31. I think the Lakers will win in 5. Denver will win at least one at home. That said, containing Carmelo is the key. If we can stop Carmelo from getting 40, we have a shot. When Carmelo gets 40 and AI gets 30, then the rest of the Nuggest will start believing in themselves and play hard. We need to limit Melo and AI to 25 a piece, then even if the other players chip in here and there, we’ll outscore them easily. Of course, if we play good defense, we’ll blow them out at least two or three times during the series.

    My picks for Western conference is:

    LA over DEN (5)
    DAL over NO (6)
    UTA over HOU (7)
    PHO over SA (6)

    LA over UTA (5)
    PHO over DAL (7)

    LA over PHO (6)

    LA over BOS (6) or DET (6)

    I think we’ll clinch both WCF and Finals away because we’re an excellent away team. I think our biggest THREAT will be PHO and BOS.

  32. 27 – Craig W,
    Good insights. You bring up a great point that fans often forget with young players, and that is namely that they’re YOUNG. When we as fans see a guy with the potential to take the franchise to the next level, and then he struggles, I think we tend to look at it only in terms of basketball, and not in terms of life. We forget that some of these guys are still kids and need a few years to mature into adults.

    I mean, when you were 18 would you have been able to handle the expectations of the Lakers’ fanbase and the resultant pressure? I sure wouldn’t have. (Not to mention how Kobe’s parking lot tirade last summer must have made him feel.)

    But I think whereas in the situation Kobe walked into — jealous veterans, dominant personality in Shaq, Del Harris as coach — the deck was stacked against him, I think for Bynum the deck is stacked in his favor. He has a young team that has embraced him, the team’s dominant ego and superstar is (finally) in his corner, he has an all-time great center to mentor him and nurture his skills, and he has a terrific coach who will push him to grow without crushing his confidence.

    29 – kwame a,
    Totally agree. But it’s not just the NCAA corrupting college basketball, it’s also the AAU, sneaker companies and agents corrupting high school ball. I love the European club system, and I’ve wondered for years if there isn’t some way we could adapt it to work over here.

  33. 30-Ha, its funny cause I think Vaccaro is a slimeball, but some of his points (which he makes out of self-interest) are valid.

  34. 33 – Jones,
    I saw that when TrueHoop linked to it. Good stuff.

  35. I don’t have a problem with the players who are good enough going to the NBA; if they don’t make it, overall it’s not a bad thing, because that actually opens up a spot for someone else. And the players on scholarship are getting paid the equivalent of 15-40K per year, depending on where they are going, so that’s not so terrible either.

    THe problem I have is the effect it has on the huge majority of players growing up, in high school and younger, who see the stars not going to college/going for one year, listening to the majority of them talk, seeing/hearing that those stars didn’t have to study, and thinking “what’s the point in me studying, since I’ll be in the NBA at age 19 anyway.”

  36. all this talk about life being hard as a highschooler in the NBA is simply absurd.

    sure there are those who are pampered every step along the way, but there are kids who literally fight for their lives, and kids who would kill for just about anyone noticing them.

    you don’t have to be a man-child to get along with your coworkers, and I doubt gazillion years in college would have made Barry Bonds a better teammate. you either have it or you don’t, and they make their own decisions.

  37. Wow, that Gasol picture in Kurt’s piece at Hardwood Paroxysm is pretty … disturbing.

    BTW, Kurt, it’s Allen Iverson, not Alan.

  38. Honestly, why force kids to go to college if they are NBA ready? They risk injury playing in the NCAA and they can always go back to college later. Some of the best players in the league came straight out of high school. It’s a joke to make players like Kobe or Lebron slog through a year of college when they are going to end up in the NBA regardless. The only people that really benefit from that are the NCAA.

  39. Laker Pauer,
    All you have to do is look at what we all put Andrew Bynum through when he couldn’t produce in his 1st year to know that almost all high schoolers cannot be expected to handle pressures that are difficult enough for people 22-24 yrs old. If they don’t make it we just ‘toss them away’ and go on to the next young prodigy. If we are going to be that heartless – and we all will be – then at least we could protect the majority of the kids by putting this kind of work off limits. The NCAA is a whole nother question entirely. Also, this would protect the owners from themselves and – I think – bring a generally better product into the NBA.

  40. Incidently, there was a story about Andrew Bynum’s advisor, sometime last fall. The story went that he got together with Andrew and his family after the Kobe tape came out and challenged Andrew, saying, “…he has done you a real favor by providing you with more publicity than any other young NBA player. What are you going to do with it? Curl up and protect yourself or go out and prove him wrong. Everyone will be watching and will remember his comments. If you make yourself equal to this task, you will get far more credit than if he had never called you out.”

  41. JONESONTHENBA,
    I had some comments I wanted to add to the article you linked to here, but your blog wouldn’t accept them. It said I was using a wrong password. Well, there was no place I could request my password be mailed to your, apparently, already stored email address for me. In this age of ‘thousands’ of passwords per user, sites have to have a way for people to retrieve passwords they have forgotten.

  42. Guys,

    I’m putting up a post about the European system vs. the American system. I was saving it for the off-season, since we’re entering the most exciting playoffs for a long time, but maybe Kurt can decide about that.

    Anyway, the European system is also severily flawed, don’t think for a second we have a better system than yours!

  43. (17) Reed,

    I’ve been trying to “think like a Nugget”–or Coby’s dad. As i read more and more comments on this blog, I see a few rays of hope for George.

    First of all, the Laker sweep over Denver may be a blessing in disguise for them. They have managed to get under the radar and retool even as we get more and more confident. That could spell disaster.

    DEFENSE The Denver defense is a great deal like the Laker defense–easy to break down with a deliberate offense–looking too hard to make that steal–lost in rotation snafus. It can put them in a deep hole.

    How do they get out of that hole? Here’s an edited excerpt (http://www.pickaxeandroll.com/ ) :

    “The Denver Nuggets employed a 2-3 zone to help slow Golden State’s powerful offense in Denver’s 114-105 win.

    Eduardo Najera did a great job of covering over 200 square feet from the rim out to the three point line. Because Najera was roaming so far from the paint it put pressure on the other four Nugget players to help cover even more ground themselves.

    It was surprising to see the Nuggets work as such a unit . . . . For a vast majority of the season it is difficult to figure out if they had all received different and conflicting instructions in the huddle. However, they implemented a very unorthodox zone scheme against the Warriors and appeared to be sharing a single consciousness. One thing I did not point out . . . was how the two outside baseline players did a great job of pinching in the middle when Najera was at the top of the key and then how well they reacted back out towards the perimeter.

    This defense helped save the day for Denver as they stifled the Golden State offense long enough to turn a 16 point deficit into a six point lead in the first six minutes of the second quarter.”

    If I were Coby’s dad, I’d be preparing a zone that blanketed 4 Lakers, but enticed Lamar to take his famous Oh! No! Dumb! three pointers as frequently as possible.

    If successful, Denver D (I know, it sounds like an oxymoron–but people with glass houses . . . .) leads to Denver O

    OFFENSE: We’re not talking deliberate and patient. We’re talking “steal and run.”

    The Nuggs may be most effective in transition. Should the Lakers go deliberate, the Nuggs go zone with a few wrinkles thrown in to drive the Lakers into upchuck heaven. Ask yourself whether or not that has worked against the Lakers in the past.

    Of course, the Lakers may may take the challenge, and do a bit of running themselves. We’ve done that against the Warriors with mixed results. It’s the way Phoenix has beaten us in the past.

    It could get very interesting.

    We won’t have Bynum, but they won’t have Nene.

    Let’s not take those Nuggs for granted.

  44. off topic,
    anyone else notice the LA times sports writer screw up at times, they keep calling the team from Charlotte the Hornets…duh, they haven’t figured out yet the team moved to NO?
    and, isn’t steve blake with portland now?
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-heisler1_jfykvinc,1,5585660.photo

  45. 38 – Emma,
    That Gasol pic from Hardwood Paroxysm (http://tinyurl.com/475nk5), is that from Rolling Stone or Playgirl? I’m confused.

    42 – chris h,
    You linked to the photo, not the article. And yes, Blake is with the Blazers. In reading NBA articles from various regional newspapers, I’ve found a surprising number of reporters who are uninformed about a particular topic and clearly haven’t bothered to do their homework.

  46. The following, at Lakers Nation is really a great look at the team…
    http://thelakersnation.com/blog/2008/04/17/the-improbable-dream/#more-2725

  47. Another link, if you haven’t seen it, is a mini-preview I did for Yahoo! There’s also some thoughts from Jeremy at Pickaxeandroll, who you will hear more from in the coming days:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/NBA-Playoff-Previews-No-1-Lakers-vs-No-8-Nug?urn=nba,77504

  48. re 47……very nice, very nice……..you KNOW that, somewhere up there, francis CHICK hearn is smiling, for this has been a season that chick would’ve verbally etched into our memories. no disrespect to spero or joel, but if the magic continues, it will be a stage that ole golden throat would’ve enveloped and made it his own, just as vin did in ’88……in “simulcast”

  49. Hollinger picked Utah to beat the Lakers and go to the Finals:
    http://tinyurl.com/3eeova

  50. Just a couple of thoughts on Denver…

    1). We need to lay off Iverson to control his penetration. If we make him (primarily) a jumpshooter then we can limit his effectiveness. Even if he’s scoring a bunch, I’m okay with that because that comes at the expense of others getting easy looks off of help situations. Remember, as Kurt pointed out, we beat this team when Iverson went for 50. Now, that was a game when Melo got hurt, but the blueprint is there. If AI is going for big numbers, that (hopefully) means that Melo, Smith, and Kleiza are not.

    2). I would not be suprised to see some cross matching on defense like Reed discussed in #17. Besides just guarding Martin, I would not be suprised to see Luke/Radman on Camby either. Camby does most of his damage on the extended baseline and the top of the key. If we pay close attention to him when he’s in those areas and just remember to box him out, i think his (already) limited offensive game gets reduced further. They also like to use Camby (esp. when at the top of the key) as a passer to Melo on the mid block, so we need to recognize situations where we should concede the shot to Camby or pressure the ball in order to limit his passing angles (especially on the spin lob when Melo is trying to post up).

    3). drrayeye mentioned a zone and I think that is spot on. Denver used a matchup zone in their big win against the Warriors last week and stifled the W’s attack. We need to be prepared on how we are going to attack that defense with either peneatration or inside/out passing (or a healthy combo of both) to get the zone moving. Denver has a variety of athletes/hustle players that do well in a zone (and remember Melo exclusively played a zone at ‘Cuse and is very good at rotations on the backside). They also have AI and his amazing anticipation disrupting things at the top of the zone so we can’t get lazy with ball reversals or he’ll get plenty of deflections and steals. If we are not ready for the zone, it could cost us a game in the series.

    Overall, Denver is dangerous and can’t be overlooked. They have a bunch of talent and have really underachieved this year, making their record a little misleading. I’ve seen a lot of predictions in this thread about a victorious 5 game series, which would be great. But, let’s not act like we’ve already advanced. 1 game at a time, guys.

  51. “The Nuggets are among the 99% of teams that have no good answer to slow Kobe man-to-man, so they doubled and trapped him in every meeting this year.”

    ^^ What team(s) would constitute that other 1 percent? Is there a general consensus on this board?

    My opinion would be teams that have a sound perimeter defender (a la Bowen) coupled with big men inside who can rotate off their men with some help D (a la Duncan).

    Obviously the Spurs fit the bill with Bowen, and Duncan and Oberto clogging the lane. I would also say Detroit. They have the option of putting Tayshaun or RIp on Kobe (I’d go Tayshaun cuz of his length – something that can affect Mamba) with Sheed and McDyess up front.

    Celtics – maybe. They got the D in the key, what with KG and Kedrick Perkins, but I don’t know about the personnel patrolling the perimeter. Tony Allen maybe? I don’t think Ray Ray could stay with Kobe. Actually, ‘m pretty sure Jesus can’t stick Kobe. And Pierce? A stretch.

    Suns – not buying it. We’ve heard Raja Bell’s name time and time again. But I feel like he’s lost a step since a couple years back when he played Kobe relatively well in our 7 game series (that was supposed to be a sweep but Kobe’s “butter knives” actually turned out to play like steak knives for a bit – still not like the “guns” he’s got now). No more Matrix. And I’m undecided on whether the tandem of Shaq and Amare are capable of cleaning up perimeter mistakes. Shaq? Takes up space and will have a bit of an intimidation factor. Amare? Leaves a lot to be desired. What’s interesting is that if Shaq and Amare can own the paint this playoffs, the championship is the Suns’ to lose – and one of the reasons is because it means they were able to slow down Kobe somewhat.

    Rockets – maybe as well. We’ve seen how well Shane Battier and their team team D in general can play Kobe. Plus they’ve got Mutumbo back there for 20 minutes a game.

    Utah – eh
    Dallas – no
    Hornets – no

    And finally, Denver – they’ve got some interior D with Camby and Kenyon, but who’s guarding Kobe out in no man’s land? AC? AI? Melo? JR? Kenyon? eh….

    The beauty of all this is if Kobe can get to the paint and attract attention (aka help D), he has teammates that he can now trust to finish – whether at the rim on or on the perimeter. Personally, I believe Kobe’s place in the game (in a historical sense) will really be evident after these playoffs are over. Is he a great player or is he one of the top 5- top 10 players of all time – someone really deserving of the comparisons to Jordan. He’s been clamoring for help for some time now, and the team has provided him with that. We’ve made some moves and various players have made significant improvement. We’ll see if Kobe can take this team to that next level.

  52. 52, I think it’s each of those teams has like…0.33% of stopping him, so combined they constitute 1% ability to stop Kobe

  53. #52: I think that 1% references the original Dream Team or that Alien Team in “Space Jam”. Ha.

  54. 44- The zone the Nuggets used effectiveley against the W’s would not work like that agaisnt the Lakers. The W’s don’t have a post option, so the zone had them chucking 3pters all game, never getting into the paint. With Gasol (your boy) the Lakers can break down a 2-3 zone, which leaves Gasol’s sweet spots wide open.

  55. Kwame, not to disagree too much, because I do think the Lakers have a more diverse group of players to attack a zone, but that Denver zone is designed to shut down the middle and keep the ball out of the paint. So while we do have Gasol, Odom, and even Kobe as post options, Denver’s length and athleticism does a good job of taking away the paint.

    Also Denver was running a 1-2-2 type zone with AI at the point and Smith/Melo/Carter on the upper wings and Camby/Martin/Kleiza on the bottom wings. The length and athleticism of these players was creating tough angles for post entry and shutting down the driving lanes. Meanwhile AI was just jumping passing lanes on the highpost flash and at the top of the key on ball reversals. It’s the activity of the zone that concerns me and how Denver was able to shrink the court and force jumpers. Now, if Radman/Kobe/Fish/Sasha can hit some jumpers against these looks or we can get penetration and have 2 Nuggs playing 3 Lakers as the defense collapses and rotates, then I don’t think Denver will be able stick with it and will have to abandon the zone. But we have to be ready for the zone because they have the players to make this defense effective.

  56. http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3352959

    ok.. kinda stupid. but I won the Championship…

  57. The Dude Abides April 18, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I can’t even begin to describe how funny this is:
    http://tinyurl.com/3zc3xs

  58. Yea Dude, Garbage time is awesome. My favorite:

    http://garbagetimeallstars.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html

    Scott Skiles – Life Coach

  59. Does anyone know who’s being left off the playoff roster for the Lakers?

  60. And another humorous link

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3352882

    Good thing the Kings didn’t make the playoffs. Mikkie Moore has more time playing at being a bidness man.

    Marion to self: ” I can play about 21 less games, have more time off and make about the same money?” Sign me up!

  61. 82 games just released some interesting stats looking at how players play against good, average and bad teams respectively. Unfortunately for the Lakers playoff opponents this year Kobe plays his best and most efficient ball against the best teams of the league.

    http://www.82games.com/COM1S11.HTM

  62. 61) Parker – FWIW, those stats aren’t very promising for the Lakers. Sort them by the +/- column, and look how good Boston and Utah look.

  63. What do the +/- columns represent? I thought one was for minutes played and the other for FG attempted.

  64. I think the +/- columns represent total and average +/- against good teams. So on *average*, against “good” teams Pierce was +8 in 20 games or +162 *total* over those same 20 games. Boston and Utah players rank very high on the +/- list when sorted for that category. Meanwhile, Kobe, though leading the league in scoring against “good” teams, has a total +/- of -13 and an average of -0 (because the -13 is averaged out over 29 games). What I also find interesting, and this speaks further on the disparity between east and west, is that Kobe played in 29 games against *good* teams, while players like Bosh, Pierce, and Garnett played 20 or less. Those guys out west had the tougher games over the course of the season.

  65. exhelodrvr (63): In the playoffs, especially now that all series are best of seven, aggregate plus-minus numbers mean less than team matchups. Maybe it’s just because I’m a Lakers fan, but it seems that out of the top teams (in the West, at least), the Lakers do the best against other playoff teams. Down the stretch, especially, they lost games to teams that weren’t sniffing the playoffs–teams like Memphis, Charlotte, Portland.

  66. Article on Bynum (including apparently himself saying that he’ll be back for the WC Finals at the earliest), but the more interesting thing is the video interview with him, Vujacic, Farmar and Turiaf.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=granderson/080417&sportCat=nba

  67. Well Fella’s i just want to Say that im A Denver Nugget Fan. Don’t want you guys to bug out. I think the Lakers are the Best team in the N.B.A. Do you see any Advantages for the Nuggets in this Series.

  68. 66) Brian,
    I agree, and those stats are for the whole season with different games against different teams; to be used accurately as a comparison you would at least need to see the per game average against specific teams.

    However, it does emphasize that there are good reasons for the fans of other teams to be confident, and that the Lakers better not get cocky.

  69. #68, ML, nice to have a visitor who has some decency towards other teams fans.
    for me, personally, I think the advantage that Denver has over the Lakers is in the center position, in that you haev Camby, a true center, and we have Pau, a natural PF who is playing C because he’s 7ft and we don’t have a better option. Pau has shown he can play the C, but for this series, I think you guys have the advantage at C.
    good luck, may the best team win. (and I hope it’s the Lakers, hehe)

  70. The Dude Abides April 18, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Well, I would also add that the Nuggets have an advantage at the SF position…Melo vs…..Vlad? Luke? Yeah, big advantage there.

  71. does any team not have an advantage there? inconsistency on defense is not a recipe for success in the playoffs, IMO

  72. New post up, a view of the series from Denver.

  73. Nuggets are full of All-Stars, but are underachievers.
    Won’t play Defense…Coach Karl is Vanilla…Lakers in 4

  74. a sweep will be tough. ai can draw a foul like a stick figure and if kobe has 3or 4 fouls at the half, melo and iverson will make the most of it. if denver’s bench can rally like they did against golden state a few weeks ago l.a. is in trouble

  75. I am forced to agree with sir charles. LA are the favourites for the series but i think Denver have a really good chance of upsetting them!!!! Iverson can score as well as he ever has if they can win the first or second game in LA then he can get on a roll and score enough in the series to equal Kobe and Smith if he shoots well the entire series i can see denver winning in 6