Lakers/Nuggets Game 2 Chat

Kurt —  April 23, 2008

NBA Playoffs thought of the day: In the wake of the Pau Gasol trade two teams made big moves to try to “keep up with the Busses.” Phoenix traded for Shaq, Dallas made a move for Jason Kidd, both mortgaged future assets to win it all this year. How is that working out?


Now on to the Lakers/Nuggets game. If you haven’t gotten enough previews from everything at this site, there is some great stuff on the Web to check out. First there is maybe the best guy writing Xs and Os in the mainstream out there,’s David Thorpe, with a breakdown:

L.A. needs to be more worried about controlling Iverson. When the Lakers were able to force him to dribble attack laterally, by playing soft and showing defensive helpers up the floor, Iverson was very ineffective. But when he attacked more vertically on Lakers breakdowns, using both ballscreens and his own talent at changing speeds, he was terrific at both scoring and drawing fouls. It appears Gasol can not hedge effectively against Iverson on ballscreens, so getting immediate wing help is a must, or A.I. can get to the rim and likely draw some fouls on Pau. L.A. can try to just jam up Iverson with that second defender, or even blitz him and try to trap/contain him with bigger guards and wings.

If Iverson recognizes that he can score 20-plus points but get 15-plus assists against this style of defense, Denver’s offense can definitely jump up a notch. Consider that super subs Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith scored a combined 38 points on just 21 shots. They are very dangerous players, especially when A.I. is playing more of a point guard role. The Lakers might decide to cut off much of their help on A.I. and force him into being solely a scorer. Iverson played that role very poorly in last year’s playoffs versus the Spurs as he struggled to finish shots against their big men around the rim. But L.A.’s interior defense is not as good as San Antonio’s, so it’s a risk to play a similar strategy…..

These teams are a lot closer in talent and ability, and Denver has to realize it can win a game with more patience and smarter offensive execution combined with more mental focus on defense — the Nuggets outscored L.A. in quarters 1, 2 and 4. But it takes four good quarters to beat a No. 1 seed on the road. I think Denver can do it, although this should be a game that is very tight at the end.

Thorpe predicts a Nugget win, doing so because he thinks Denver will start to grind it out a little more. As I said before the series, if I thought Denver was mentally willing to do that for extended periods I’d be more worried than I am.

Then there is great stuff (with video to back it up) from Jeremy at Pickaxeandroll, breaking down game one.

In this segment I look at the Nuggets poorly executed scheme when Camby’s man sets a ball screen. Camby goes opposite of the screen to play the baseline. The on the ball defender plays soft to prevent penetration away from the screen and they bring a third defender to cover the screen side incase the ball handler takes the screen.

The biggest problem with that defense is Camby always allows the ball handler to just dribble past him through the paint and leaves Camby defending no one. Meanwhile, whoever was set to cover the ball handler on the high side is stuck covering Camby’s man and leaves the Nuggets perimeter D lacking, even more so than usual. The other weakness this defense presents is with Camby roaming after the ball handler someone is left to defend the lane in front of the rim alone, which resulted in some of the easy buckets that were so frequently scored by the Lakers.

I recognize that this scheme is designed to allow Camby to stay closer to the rim, but it is just so poorly executed the Nuggets really have little chance to consistently make stops with this strategy.

The other really interesting thing I documented was the way the Nuggets pushed the pace and were aggressive with the ball during their run in the second quarter. They looked completely different than the way they played the rest of the game. They were not necessarily scoring on the break, but they were attacking from the start of the possession.

If you want more, check out Moore at Fanhouse.

My two cents on the chess match — I think Denver will play better interior defense, and they will collapse on Kobe when he gets in the lane (and he will, fewer jumpers to come). But the Laker guards (Fisher, Farmar, Sasha) will get better looks because of it. Those three will shoot over the top of the zone or over AI. One or more will have a big night and key a Lakers win.

I expect this game to be a little closer than game one, and a little more intense (read: chippy). I’ll be home and more active in the chat tonight, looking forward to this one.