As we enter game three, I think the clichÃ© fallbacks about effort and focus are appropriate here â€” the Lakers know how to beat the Nuggets, now they just need to do it in a more hostile environment against what will be a motivated Nuggets team. The Lakers have counted on windows of Nuggets disinterest in defense to pull away in the first two games, those windows will be a lot smaller today. Look at how Dallas stepped up their intensity and started to do the things they needed to in this series (be more physical, to start). Denver will be more like that tonight â€” they have no match up changes they can make to instantly solve their problems, it has to be about playing in their system and doing so with controlled desperation. For their part, the Lakers need to keep the offense flowing, then get back in transition defense.
While the Nuggets defense has rightfully taken some lumps in every form of media, thereâ€™s an interesting post up by Jeremy at pickaxeandroll saying that the Nuggets offense is not without blame.
The primary issue remains the same. They know they need to play with greater intelligence, they just seem incapable of actually doing it. My greatest fear for the Nuggets on offense is that AI and Melo will try to do too much. The bleaker the outlook the more Melo and AI count on themselves to carry the offense.
Even more concerning the offense enables both of them to do so as it is designed to get one or the other the ball and simply do their thing. The result is more forced shots, less movement, stagnant offense and frustration.
However, in game two it was not just Melo and AI responsible for the Nuggets inability to move the ball. Unfortunately, like the Jackson family (think Michael and Tito, not Phil), there are multiple offenders. In his brief stretch on the court Nene was surprisingly black hole-esque. I am glad that J.R. is going to the rim, but he is at his best when he is willing to dump the ball off to a teammate from time to time. In the first two games he has been forcing shots when he penetrates and seems to have forgotten that buckets by his teammates count for just as many points as the ones he puts in himself.
Some other good reading out there over at SportsHub about the series.
As for strategy for game 3:
â€¢ Still try to make AI a jumpshooter, last game he was hot from 15 to 18, but you want him taking that over a layup. That said, you know Melo and AI will get there points, just donâ€™t let Kleiza or Smith add a big number to that.
â€¢ Good transition defense.
â€¢ One thing I like the Lakers are doing: Keeping someone on any Denver player who grabs a defensive rebound to prevent a good outlet pass. They also are hanging around AI to make sure he has to work to get the outlet. Itâ€™s working, keep it up.
â€¢ Know that Denver is not going to go away quietly today, be ready for a dog fight.
â€¢ More Luke. Heâ€™s playing well and the Nuggets have no answer.
â€¢ Keep doing what your doing, and remember not to get caught up in the speed Denver wants to work at.