Archives For April 2008

Lakers/Nuggets Game 3 Chat

Kurt —  April 26, 2008

As we enter game three, I think the cliché fallbacks about effort and focus are appropriate here — 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 — 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, there’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:

• 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 don’t let Kleiza or Smith add a big number to that.

• Good transition defense.

• 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. It’s working, keep it up.

• Know that Denver is not going to go away quietly today, be ready for a dog fight.

• More Luke. He’s playing well and the Nuggets have no answer.

• Keep doing what your doing, and remember not to get caught up in the speed Denver wants to work at.

Game 2 Thoughts

Kurt —  April 24, 2008

It bothered me in game one when Kobe took the Lakers out of what was working. In game two, he was working.

In the first quarter he took the ball to the basket — of his 10 shots in the quarter 4 were dunks or layups. That freed up his midrange game, five more shots were in the midrange. There was just one three attempted. I was worried that he would take on the challenge of Kenyon Martin by becoming “pull-up jumper Kobe,” but he went to the rack.

Then, when the Nuggets started to adjust to what he was doing, Kobe picked up 10 dimes in the last three quarters (he had none in the first). Eight of those came in the second half. The Nuggets really don’t have an answer. I think KD at Ball Don’t Lie summed it up well (as he always does):

Kobe Bryant (49 points, ten assists) is one of the best shooting guards to ever play this game.

Kobe Bryant was guarded, mostly, by a pair of power forwards who couldn’t keep up with most of this league’s small forwards. If you can’t follow Ryan Bowen around the pine, why should you have to guard Kobe Bryant? George? Kenyon and Eduardo want a word. And they want to move back to Ronny Turiaf, if at all possible.

Other thoughts:

• Game two looked a lot like game one on some key levels. First, the Nuggets offensive rating for the game was 109.2 (points per 100 possessions), not much different than the 110.7 they had in game one. The Lakers defense continues to keep the Nuggets just below their season average (112.1).

And, as is obvious without the numbers, the Nuggets don’t have any defensive answer to the Lakers. LA had an offensive rating of 124.5, pretty much identical to the 124.3 from game one. The Lakers season average was 114.9 and the Suns led the entire NBA at 115.8.

• The good news, 98 possessions in game two, five slower than game one. A few less would be great but the Lakers are better off with it under 100.

• Good note on Carmelo from Tony Starks in the comments:

Melo has gotten no calls these first 2 games. With that said, though, melo-melo man is a black hole. my gosh. mr. bridges says he only has 3 moves on the block. I’m sure 1 of them is definitely not passing. he must’ve got the ball at least 10 times on the block/15 ft. out (where he likes it).

3 times (at most) he passed the ball (reluctantly – 1 for a turnover, 1 for a made AI 3, and one for an AI miss). The other 9-10 times, he’s looking to get up his own shot. I’ve seen him and Kleiza pass the ball to each other like 3 times all series. Sad.

Reed added this note along the same lines:

Iverson and Melo are obviously talented and are going to put up gaudy scoring numbers, but you get the feeling they are incapable of combining to shoot better than 45%. With Denver having no one on their team that is going to get a lot of easy, efficient points inside, all of that perimeter scoring isn’t going to avail much. On the flip side, Kobe also usually shoots 45%, but he mixes it with Pau and Odom’s 55%+ shooting and great playmaking.

• When the Lakers attacked the Nuggets zone inside out (via Kobe penetration or passes into Pau) they got good looks, even the kick-out threes were very open ones. When they just went around the perimeter the looks were poor. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere…..

• The Nuggets aren’t getting the calls? It’s “5 on 8” to quote Mr. Smith. Really? As J.D. Hastings pointed out in the comments, the Nuggets have shot more free throws than the Lakers in both games — 17 more over both games. While that is not the ultimate test of quality officiating, it’s a sign things may be more fair than the Nuggets realize. The Nuggets are just a little desperate. And letting the officials get into their heads.

You Like Me

Kurt —  April 24, 2008

You really, really like me.

Seriously, I am touched to have won the “Sixth Blogger of the Year” (best team-focused blog) in the Hardwood Paroxysm recent NBA blogger voting. Especially when I think of all the fantastic blogs I read and think, “Man, I wish I was that good.”

This little site has grown into a fantastic community, where I serve as caretaker and conversation starter. But it is the community that keeps me (and I think many of you) interested. So, thanks for voting for me.

PS. I am so going to rub this in Ziller’s face.

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Live Blog Game 2

Kurt —  April 23, 2008

Once again Nomuskles took the time, so here is his live game blog.

Pregame:
Everything has been said about this game that can possibly be said. Let’s get to it!
Oh wait. I almost forgot. I think the Lakers will lose this one, although I hope not.

1st Quarter
Denver remains in their powder blues. Lakers change to their yellows since it’s not Sunday anymore (unfortunately).

12:00 – Neither bench sits again. Kleiza sports #43 and starts the game. This means the matchups are pretty normal.
11:01 – Fisher makes a great strip of Kenyon in the post. He takes it the other way and the Lakers earn 2.
10:19 – The Space Cadet gets himself started off right with a three.
10:04 – Not a good omen, Nuggets find a wide open Melo under the basket for an easy lay-in.
9:35 – Camby is wearing yellow socks.
9:24 – Fisher misses a layup. Was anyone surprised right there? He left it shorter than Tom Cruise.
8:30 – Kobe hits the faceup bank shot.
8:16 – Marv gets really excited when Kleiza beats Odom off the dribble for the two-handed slam.
7:41 – Fast break Nuggets, easy dunk. 12-9.
7:19 – Gasol is mugged in the mid post in the act of shooting. Reggie Miller says the Nuggets need to go to the zone diet and clog the middle. Exactly what Kurt said they were probably going to do. We’ll see how that pans out.
7:04 – Whoa. Kenyon Martin does a little Tasmanian devil move that is good.
6:39 – Excellent hustle by your Los Angeles Lakers leads to a Pau jump hook. 12-14 Lakers are down.
5:51 – Let me take a breath. This game is ridiculous. 16-12 Nuggets up and it’s been mostly layups, dunks, and three pointers early in the clock. Very few half court sets going deep into the shot clock. That’s not what the Lakers wanted. I’m not sure that’s what the Nuggets wanted either, but it’s working for them so far. Timeout. At this point the Nuggets are shooting 67% and the Lakers are shooting 33%. That’s not going to get it done.
4:37 – Nuggets are clearly the more aggressive team tonight. Getting inside and getting to offensive rebounds. Welcome to the worst case scenario (that doesn’t involve an injury).
4:13 – Bennet Salvatore misses a call. On the inbounds, Denver misses, but Camby gets the offensive rebound (I’m throwing things at the TV now) and puts it back. Without Kobe, the Lakers would be out of it.
3:30 – Kleiza loses the handle and Kobe gets in the open floor. AI decides he’d rather not be the other person in the sport center highlight and gets out of the way. Kobe jams with one hand. Denver calls timeout. 20-22. Nuggets still up.
2:59 – Fisher makes two free throws to tie the game up. Some token pressure after the free throws. Life with Luke fouls Melo. Kobe actually fouls Kleiza on the three point attempt but no call. Luke misses the shot at the other end. Wide open. AI makes his jumper on the other end.
2:16 – Kobe gets the seal on melo and gets the feed on the baseline side in the post, gets fouled and makes the layup. Shouts of MVP rain down. Melo practices his folding chair aerotuck, i.e. he has a seat on the bench.
2:03 – AI is having none of it. Drills the step back. 26-25 Denver up.
1:45 – Welcome to the Kobe show. He better drink his Gatorade today. He’s sweating bullets because he is carrying this team like a Timbuk2 messenger bag. 2 more free throws 27 – 26. Lakers up. On the other end, Najera outworks Luke for the rebound and converts.
0:56 – Luke sees Pau trailing the play. They are the only Lakers in a position to do anything in the offensive end and he lobs it up to Pau. Pau misses the oop part of the alleyoop (a key component, some might say) but the officials decide he missed because e got pushed in the lower back side.
0:54 – Iverson gets intimidated by Farmar’s imposing size and travels in the backcourt. Kobe hits a fadeaway jumper. I think Kobe heard everyone complaining about his terrible shooting and he got a little tired of hearing that he can’t shoot.
0:26 – Kobe hits a 3 here in transition. 30-33 Lakers are up.
0:06 – Iverson hits two free throws. I think his free throw stroke is back on tonight. Farmar struggles in the back court, he dribbles the length of the court and it looks exactly like Tyus Edney’s famous hoop except instead of laying it in and everyone going bananas, Farmar’s shot was sent via air courier into the fourth row by Marcus Camby. Other than that though, it was a carbon copy of 1995.

2nd Quarter
11:37 – Life with Luke starts off right with a straight on three. JR Smith takes it to the hole and Magic Johnson says that it’s too easy.
11;10 – Pau sets a great screen to give Lamar space to hit a long two pointer.
11:00 – Nene sighting. I’ve never been his biggest fan but we’ll see if he can be a difference maker tonight. Anthony Carter is also in. JR Smith is determined to make a mark on this game.
10:21 – Gosh, Magic Johnson is still talking. Please stop.
10:09 – Sasha misses from outside but don’t worry, a foul was called before the shot so it won’t make our horrid FG% worse. Oh my. That was unsightly. Farmar’s shot from outside is a long wedge shot and Mbenga tracks it down. Note to Jordan: stop hanging out so much with Luke, start hanging out with Sasha and Vladrad. After something else happens (I missed it), Lakers get a loose ball foul and the ball will come back the other way the Lakers on top by 4, 40-36.
9:37 – AI misses a three. Sorry, not every entry can be exciting.
9:26 – Mr. Walton gets an offensive foul trying to establish position in the post. Not something that happens very often.
8:43 – Lakers get a turnover from AI who got caught in the air and it leads to a Sasha….. miss…make…miss…make. Make! It rattled home. Lakers up 43-36. Timeout. On-Star seems intimidating. That Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz movie looks awful. I won’t even be bitTorrenting it.
8:15 – Najera is poking us full of non-mortal wounds with his offensive rebounding. But enough non-mortal wounds, and you know what they say.
7:47 – Kobe still feeling it apparently. Strokes it. 45-36.
7:20 – Great play by Kobe and Farmar! Kobe runs the break. Both defensive Nuggets stop at the free throw line and Kobe passes to Farmar over the top. Farmar leaps in and somehow slips through the collapsing defenders to get the reverse layup. Those kinds of plays give the fans a huge boost. Timeout Nuggets. Lakers up 11.
7:01 – Umm… How is Radman not able to stay with Nene off the dribble? He fouls him earning the blocking foul.
6:32 – Close call as the ref says Sasha stepped out across the end line before passing it across. And the replay says the refs are good today.
6:17 – Melo takes the technical foul free throw for illegal defense. general boos this time. For someone of his stature, Melo doesn’t get to the line very much.
5:57 – Kobe for three! 50-39 Lakers are up. Radman says, “Thanks for getting me an assist Mr. Kobe.”
5:40 – Fisher is very close to violating the league policy on not showing enough sock. That sentence could have easily gone wrong.
5:04 – Pau is back in the game. Kobe’s double teamed. Throws it to Pau if Pau were 13 feet tall. Lamar tracks it down and throws up the prayer to beat the clock and nothing. Nuggets can’t convert the free possession.
4:28 – Lamar is looking to help his sickly field goal percentage. He does a little market research and the early results say that if he drives from the top of the circle straight to the rim, he can dunk for 99% efficiency. The Nuggets take notes and nod their heads enthusiastically at demonstration.
3:47 – A JR Smith three pointer bounces on the rim a couple times and Fisher is able to box Camby out. That was pretty awesome. Shows how strong fisher’s lower body is. Fisher never jumped.
2:52 – 45 -52 as we go to timeout. JR Smith found his way to the rim with the Lakers refusing to help off their men. It’s hard to fault them when just a month ago, their biggest problem was leaving shooters to help with penetration. Mr. AC Green is in attendance. What a great thing for him to be able to make an appearance. No Jheri curl or short shorts, though.
1:53 – Denver has been playing zone and the Lakers haven’t been punishing them inside. Radman doesn’t see why they should and hits a three pointer. AI comes back with an easy layup after driving baseline on Fisher.
1:06 – Denver has 10 offensive rebounds. How many do you think the Lakers have? If you said 2, you’re the next contestant on The Price is Right.
0:49 – Kleiza takes an awkward spill under the hoop. Let’s hope he’s okay. Misses both of his free throws. Something is wrong with his arm I suspect.
0:13 – Lakers had gambled on defense but it somehow pays off. They get an easy layup by Luke.
0:00 – as time expires, AI gets a good look that misses and Kleiza gets a chance at a putback slam and he grabs his arm again. He’s going to need treatment at halftime and after the game.

Halftime
I haven’t seen any stats but Kobe is doing his Kobe thing. AI is doing his AI thing and Lakers are up by 10, 59-49. I’m not sure any of the other Lakers are really going to have to do more than they are doing now. Just play consistent and hit a few jumpers here and there and if Kobe keeps it up, he’ll take care of the rest. Usually the Lakers don’t like that plan, but it’s working tonight so far. The biggest improvement the Lakers need to make is preventing offensive rebounds by all the Nuggets except AI.

3rd Quarter
Frank Hamblin says the team defense was good in the second quarter but the defensive rebounding needs improving. He also says the Lakers need to know the individual tendencies. JR Smith and Kleiza both want to dribble right, so look for the Lakers to make that adjustment.

11:37 – Fisher starts it off right by getting a steal on the first defensive possession.
11:27 – Lamar looks like he has an open dunk and Denver shows some spunk that was missing in the first game and Kleiza blocks the shot. Denver needs to keep doing that.
11:09 – Melo tries to stuff it home one handed and comes up short. Maybe he shouldn’t have had those last five cheeseburgers. Camby also misses the point blank layup.
10:21 – Camby makes a very difficult layup here and brings Denver within 10. 51-61.
10:09 – Kobe’s brain runs out of the necessary amounts of sodium and potassium. His brain locks up and he made a terrible pass into the middle that was straight to the Nuggets. This earns Kleiza two points.
9:40 – Kobe makes the three.
9:31 – Kenyon martin uses one hand to finish the alleyoop.
9:02 – Again, we’re playing too fast. Pau makes the first misses the second on his free throws here. 65-57.
8:47 – AI misses the three and I’m more than happy letting him shoot that. But do you remember the finals against the Sixers? He would’ve hit that. It seemed like he couldn’t miss.
Missed time – Kobe feeds Pau on the bounce pass and Pau drops in the beautiful finger roll.
7:54 – Laurence Tanter calls out Anthony’s name as he puts in a triple. Nuggets within five. Lakers get a second chance and Radman can’t convert.
7:11 – Lamar is trying to pick up a technical foul. The refs don’t oblige him. Melo grabbed a rebound (after some tango lessons with RadMan) and put up a jump hook. I’m not sure where the Lamar-induced contact was but it’s a foul nonetheless.
6:52 – After Kobe missed the three, Camby takes it strong to the rim in transition. Lots of velocity and draws the foul on Pau. Pau doesn’t like the call. Sorry Pau. It’s a foul. 66-67 Lakers up after the free throws. Lakers are super cold.
6:24 – Fisher draws a nice charge from Ai on a two on one break. That’s not execution by Denver. I’d be willing to bet my house that if that were Shaq, Fisher would not have made the same play. He’s brave, not stupid.
6:00 – Lakers need to call timeout as a Kleiza dunk in transition gives the Nuggets the lead. Ugh. 67-68.
5:40 – Life with Luke somehow gets the runner in the lane to go as he attacked the middle of the zone.
5:08 – Fisher gives the Lakers the lead again after Kmart got himself a dunk which gave the Nuggets the lead.
4:57 – Fisher hits Allen Iverson’s neoprene sleeve in the act of shooting. 71-71.
4:33 – Kobe uses his quickness to dribble left against Kmart. As the defense collapsed Kobe found Luke with some space. Luke had to use his body and some quickness to get the layup to fall as Camby was trying to block him from behind. Camby ends up picking up a foul. Luke converts the three point play. Atta boy Luke. 74-71 Lakers up.
4:08 – Kleiza outjumps Kobe for a rebound but because Mamba is a superstar, Kleiza gets a loose ball foul. If you think players don’t care about the game, watch Kleiza walk down the court after this play. He is more than a little bit annoyed with these so-called impartial officials.
Lakers have an inbounds on their own end Kobe at the top of the circle and jumps to shoot but the space cadet cut to the basket and Kobe finds him in one motion. The resulting play won’t win the dunk contest, but I’m smiling.
3:19 – A play that has most American saying, “that’s not fair.” Luke inbounds the ball over the top to Pau who’s camped out in the lane being guarded by Najera. Since Najera gives up so much height, it’s a huge mismatch. Pau takes his time and hits the jump hook. On the defensive end, this isn’t going to work for Denver. They’ve got to have Camby or Nene guarding Pau. Lakers up 71-78.
2:43 – Kobe’s penetration leads to collapsing Denver defense. Luke makes them pay with a three pointerrrr. I gotta hand it to Luke, he’s found the rejuvenation machine at the right time of the year. Timeout by Denver.
Honestly, Denver isn’t playing poorly tonight. Lakers are playing just well enough to stay in front, but not spectacular. Let’s see how they finish out the quarter. I’m sure Doug Collins would be talking about how good teams close out quarters if he were broadcasting the game. Instead, we’ve got Joel telling us not to forget to enter for a chance to win a trip to Malaysia.
2:23 – JR Smith’s arms look like tapestry pieces with the tattoo designs.
2:10 – Kobe misses the jumper. This better not be how he plays the rest of the way.
2:00 – Camby’s lower body refuses to cooperate and he runs right into Kobe. Charging foul.
1:37 – Najera picks up another offensive rebound but the Nuggets give it away. Sasha has it on the wing on the break and finds Pau running the middle and JR Smith commits the hard foul. Pau hits one of two. 82-74. Lakers up.
1:20 – Farmar is still having trouble guarding AI. His membership card is being laminated as we speak.
1:02 – Play of the game. I don’t care what happens the rest of the way. 6 seconds on the shot clock. Luke inbounds it to Pau on the wing inside the three point line, he does a half turn and Kobe run like a blur from the top of the circle on the weakside to finish a sick alleyoop with one hand over Najera. That was all Pau with a perfect feed.
0:42 – Lakers are still buzzing. Luke picks up a layup without much resistance. Has Denver given up?
0:23 – AI hasn’t. He hit’s a three. 86-79. Lakers will have the last shot…probably.
0:03 – Kobe drives with six seconds and kicks it out to Sasha in the right short corner. Splash. AI comes back and almost hits a three at the buzzer but no dice. 89-79 Lakers up. Solid finish to the end of the quarter by the good guys!

4th Quarter
10:57 – Phil Jackson folds up his portable fan and places it under his seat. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the only way to explain Marcus Camby airballing a 17 footer from the wing when no one was guarding him. Not a single Laker could have disrupted his shot if you gave them a samurai sword. That’s how open he was. I’m embarrassed for him.
10:42 – Sasha gets another three. This time from the left wing.
10:28 – JR Smith takes a really long three ball and swishes it home.
9:54 – The pace is getting too fast again. The teams are trading baskets and jumpes early in the clock.
9:27 – JR Smith this another three. 94-89 Lakers up.
9:08 – Kobe penetrates and finds Gasol for one of those dunks that were abundant in game one.
8:58 – Marcus Camby pulls a Luke Walton of last month and airballs it a foot long. To be fair, Pau Gasol rose his arm this time. Pau’s hairy armpits were probably unbelievably distracting.
8:49 – Rick Fox is being interviewed and using “we” and “us” to describe the Lakers. Sasha misses a three.
8:32 – AI gets in close and hits the layup. Stu keeps calling for one of the teams to play defense. (Both teams are a little bit lax right now)
8:08 – Pau gets the pass off the slip screen and keeps the ball high and flips it in. 98-91. Lakers still up.
7:48 – Luke was apparently paying attention in class because he realized that Kmart likes to go right. He drew the charge. No argument from Kmart.
7:14 – Melo backs himself down in the post to get a fairly easy two. 98-93. Nuggets within five now.
6:47 – Great Hustle by Sasha to track down a long miss by Pau Pau! Kobe herky jerks his way into the lane and gets the layup and a chance for a three point play. MVP MVP MVP! 101-93 Lakers up.
6:27 – I don’t think Kobe should be guarding JR smith. Kobe looks like Bambi on ice out there with JR just pulling the strings. Not many folks can do that to the Mamba. On the other end, Kobe throws up a long three that misses ugly over Melo. That might have been a heat check. Consider your heat checked Mr. Bryant.
5:47 – The cameras show my man Bobby Jones in street clothes tonight. He graduated the same year I did from Long Beach Poly, my alma mater and went to Washington alongside Brandon Roy. Jones has been with like 8 teams this season, including Denver at least twice. I hope he sticks this time. I’m sure he’ll have to improve over the summer.
5:47 – During a pair of Pau free throws, Kenyon Martin picks his ginormous nostrils with one of those yellow playoff towels. MMmmm. Tasty.
5:39 – Weird play. Fisher and Vujacic harass JR Smith as he tries to come through the lane without the ball. The play ends up being called a foul on Fisher and a technical on Smith for what? I’m not sure. Maybe for pushing Sasha a little bit. (Sasha acted like he had been hit with a telephone book, of course.) Kobe hits the technical. Still Denver ball and then Melo gets called for a clearout against Luke. So somehow the Lakers come out on top out of all that. 104-94 Lakers up 10. Luke’s had a good game. Allen Iverson picks up a technical foul. He’s got to somehow keep himself disciplined. 105-94.
5:20 – Lakers start to run the offense and this feels good. Eh, it leads to a Kobe three. Good result even though the ball never went inside. Kobe does his stupid popping, waving the front of the jersey thing. 38 points for man who is hated because he’s a champion. Timeout by I’m Coby’s Dad.
4:52 – AI is very much in FU mode. He just got his shot blocked by Kobe. He came back and stole the ball preventing the Lakers from converting the fast break. He didn’t think about passing. He looked for his shot in the lane and Kobe fouled him with his body in the air. Allen stares down the official. It’s pretty easy to see that Denver is not at it’s best when AI plays one on five like this. You can feel the Nuggets’ hot anger.
4:52 – Stu is nothing if not predictable. He complains that AI falls backwards on his free throws and that Iverson should go practice with a chair behind him.
Missed time – Kobe hits an awkward bank shot around Kleiza.
4:15 – AI takes a three as soon as his teammate passes to him. Way short.
4:10 – Joel just said, “Luke, with incredible doodie (duty)…” 95-111.
3:43 – Kobe blows by Kleiza and makes the reverse layup. 97-113.
3:25 – Melo does the same thing to Luke but misses the reverse. It was eerie how mirror image those two plays were back to back.
3:11 – Kobe misses a free throw and fisher and AI sprint for it. Iverson takes a hard fall and Fisher earns the foul. He gets up livid. And earns himself a technical. On the replay Fisher was mad because JR Smith held him (You can see JR look around like he got caught when the whistle blows). Iverson makes two of the three freethrows. 114-99.
2:47 – Is there anything Kobe can’t do? Kobe just shot it from about 28 feet over Kleiza and dropped it in. He had to, in order to beat the shot clock. 46 points, 10 dimes, 17/26 shooting. Much more impressive than last game wouldn’t you agree?
2:22 – Kobe takes it strong against JR, gets the foul and the basket. That was not a weak foul either. 49 points for the Kobester. The two of them contemplate sanitation engineering and talk a lot of trash. Kobe says, “you can’t guard me.” Smith says, “you can’t guard me either.” Kobe says, “yeah, but you don’t have almost 50 points.” Smith says, “good point.”
1:09 – George’s son gets into the game. Good for him. We’ll see if the crowd patronizes him by telling him to shoot like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.
0:00 – That’ll do it. No points for George’s son. Great job by Kobe and Luke and Pau. Lamar was a non factor with too many fouls. 2-0 series lead for the purple and gold warriors.

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?

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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, ESPN.com’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.