Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  April 21, 2008

To me, game one followed a predictable script, just like every Hugh Grant romantic comedy. The Nuggets had one big run in the second quarter, but for the other three they could not stop the Lakers so long as LA took care of the ball and didn’t shoot early in the clock. The problem for Denver is they don’t have a lot of options to change up that could affect what the Lakers do, not because of a lack of talent but just how the team plays together. Just like a romantic comedy, we can expect to see a few tweaks in the rest of the series, but I think we’ve seen the formula and we know how the movie ends.

Here are some other thoughts from game one, and also check out the stuff from the Nuggets blog Pick Axe and Roll.

Things I liked:

• The Nuggets had no answer for Pau Gasol (interesting that for a while Karl thought Carmelo might be that answer — he wasn’t, something we all could have predicted). And while his shooting was spectacular, what set that up was his passing. It started with the first two times he got the ball in the post — he got great assists (the pass inside to a cutting Radmanovic who had sealed off his man, then the cross courter to Fisher for the three). His passing had the Nuggets defenders looking for the pass, opening up his lanes for shots (first shot of the second half a fake pass gave him a lane, he drew the foul). That and he benefited from some great passing from teammates.

• One thing that breaks down the Nuggets defense is good passing. (Well, that’s true of every defense, but the gambling style of the Nuggets makes it worse. Even when they play a zone they don’t stay home.) The Lakers are the best passing team in the NBA right now, particularly among their big men. The front line of Odom, VladRad and Gasol combined for 20 assists. That led to a lot of the Lakers lay-ups or wide-open threes. Part of the advantage there was that with K-Mart on Kobe, it created a mismatch inside where Laker bigs could see better passing lanes.

• The Lakers offense thrived when it went inside out. Not so much when the ball just worked around the perimeter. Now, read the bullet point above this about passing again and it all comes together.

• Lamar Odom’s play. He just continues to be great to watch.

• Sasha on defense. The Lakers need to go to him more, his length gives Iverson and other Nuggets ball handlers issues.

• I like Drrayeye’s quote: “Unselfish Laker teamwork more than makes up for the extraordinary talent of those Nuggs.”

Things I did not like:

• The DUI chant. You’d think, after all the vitriol directed at Kobe after Colorado a few years ago and Lakers fans response to it, they would have learned a lesson here and not acted like a third-grade schoolyard bully. Not to downplay the seriousness of drinking and driving, but Anthony has handled it with as much class as could be hoped for. That chant was just cheap.

• The pace was 103 possessions. Too fast.

• The Nuggets second-quarter run was fueled in part by misses by the Lakers. Well, that and some questionable defense on JR Smith and Keliza. And some terrible defense in transition in that stretch. All season long the Lakers second unit (led by Farmar) has come in with a burst of energy and pushed the tempo, being willing to take jumpers early in the clock. In this game, against the Nuggets, that backfired. Which is why Farmar was a team worst -15.

• As a Laker fan, I didn’t like Kleiza’s play. He can hit the outside shot but he was one of the few Denver players to consistently drive to the basket. (Iverson tried).

• How Kobe was just a jump-shooter against Martin. One of the advantages Kobe has when he drives the lane is just how strong he is, but he’s not stronger than Martin. That and Martin’s size had Kobe pulling up, but he needs to attack more. Kobe generally makes better decisions when he’s attacking than when he’s pulling up.

Other random thoughts:

• I would expect Denver to try again to be more physical with the Lakers next game. Problem is Denver really doesn’t have the personnel to do it up and down the roster. Utah on the other hand….

• Man, how compelling was that opening weekend? The Suns and Spurs? The Sixers win in Detroit? Both of those were thrilling endings to watch. I’m excited the playoffs are back.

• If Tim Duncan beats you with a three (or sends it to another OT) you just have to tip your hat to the man. That’s the shot you want to force.

• I really like the MJ “Or maybe you’re just making excuses” commercial.

• Phil Jackson has become a master of saying nothing in his responses to those in-game questions. He should run for office.