Preview & Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Kurt —  April 9, 2009

Olympics Day 16 - Basketball
Records: Lakers 62-16 (1st in West) Nuggets 53-26 (2nd in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.5 (3rd in league) Nuggets 110.6 (5th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (5th in league) Nuggets 106.6 (8th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nuggets Billups, Dahntay Jones, Melo, Renaldo Balkman, Nene

Live Blog Tonight Bynum’s back, statement game, plenty of Charles to make fun of. Sounds like a good night for a live blog, so come back here at 7:30 and we will be chatting. There’s even a possible appearance by President Obama. (Well, it’s possible, it’s not like we’d turn him away.)

Lakers And Bynum. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, so suddenly this game feels like Christmas. Andrew Bynum is back and ready to take is rightful position as a starter. The Lakers defense has been improved of late and if Bynum can provide some presence in the paint on that end of the floor, and grab some defensive rebounds that have been getting away, the Lakers will be that much tougher.

As Darius said:

I’m happy that Bynum is returning to the starting lineup. It restores Andrew and LO’s early season roles and (most importantly) gives us a true advantage against almost every team with Pau going back to PF. It also allows LO to return to his role as the leader of the second unit and hopefully turn all those minus’ on the +/- ledger of the bench to pluses.

The Nuggets Coming In: It’s interesting to watch the jockeying for position in the Western Conference — the goal seems to be to avoid the Lakers as long as possible. Dallas was playing with that kind of fire last night, certainly.

The best way to do that is to be the number two seed — by then you would face the Lakers in the conference finals. And that is a lifetime from now, things could theoretically look different. Some bloggers are writing lengthy screeds rationalizing about how some team could beat the Lakers, but nobody wants to put that theory to the test soon.

This is a big game for a Nuggets team — a win here would almost certainly get them the two seed. What they want to avoid is having to win on the final night of the season in Portland to secure the standing. Also, there is that not-to-be-discounted “See, we can beat the Lakers” psychology in play.

Denver has won eight straight. And it’s because they’ve become a pretty good defensive team. And while they may lack a traditional center (ala Bynum or Shaq) they do have some quality bigs, who are key.

I’ll let Kevin from Clipperblog break it down (from a recent post):

The Nuggets’ frontcourt rotation is composed of legitimate big men — Nene, Kevin Martin, Chris Andersen, and Renaldo Balkman. They don’t engage in a lot of small ball, despite what their 5th ranked pace number might suggest. At times, Linas Kleiza will assume the 4 spot in the second unit, particularly with Martin still recovering from a back injury, but they generally have two big bodies out there at the 4 and 5.

Along with Chauncey Billups, these bigs are a primary reason the Nuggets rank 8th in defensive efficiency. On Thursday night, they held Utah to a mere 104 points in 107 possessions. X’s & O’s of Basketball watched the game, and illustrates Denver’s effective pick-and-roll defense. Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company made some similar observations a few weeks back….
There’s no question that S/R defense is the linchpin of any NBA defense, but X’s & O’s reveals a point that often goes unsaid: The two guys defending that action are vital, but the three guys covering the rest of the floor are just as important to a defensive stop.

The only problem for the Nuggets tonight — the Lakers don’t live and die off the pick and roll.

Keys To The Game: This game matters to the Lakers because they have a schedule-makers loss tomorrow night. A late game, with national television time outs to drag it out, in LA then fly up to Portland for a game the next night against a good team in a great environment. There are games you look at when the schedule comes out and think there is a plot against your team. That is one of those games. So the Lakers need the win tonight.

The Lakers have had great success taking Carmelo Anthony out of his game, which is one reason the Lakers have had such success against them. Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company breaks it down:

During the four game playoff series against LA last season Carmelo shot 32 of 88 for a disastrous 36.3%. He has somehow managed to top that performance this season shooting 14 for 51 in the three games against the Lakers this season which equates to 27.5%. Overall in his last seven games against the Lakers Melo has only made 46 of his 139 attempts equaling a shooting percentage of 33.1%.

The Lakers do a great job of pressuring Melo and then providing help as a team. It is comical to think of players like Vlad Radmanovic (now with Charlotte) and Luke Walton frustrating Melo, but they have thanks to the team concept the Lakers’ utilize to slow Melo down. Radmanovic and Walton will get right up under Carmelo which takes away his jumper and his jab step and shoot midrange game. When Melo drives, they ride him into a position where they know help is waiting. It is simple, but effective and also somewhat illegal. The Lakers get away with a lot of contact on Melo when he drives and I am sure the Nuggets have sent footage of it to the league. If the refs continue to allow it, Melo will have his work cut out for him. Instead of forcing bad shots Melo needs to use the swarming defense against the Lakers and look to earn easy shots for his teammates

.

While the Nuggets play at a fast pace, they are not a great transition defensive team. And now they are on the second night of a back-to-back (OKC last night). The Lakers can run on the Nuggets and should push the pace. But do it wisely (Jordan, I’m looking at you).

The Lakers need to take care of the ball — the Nuggets defense is all about steals and blocks then turning that into easy transition points. Time to “fake a pass to make a pass” using some back-cuts and interior passing.

The Nuggets, because they have so many athletes, tend to switch off just about every pick. That can lead to mismatches and the Lakers need to recognize and exploit those.

George Karl’s MO in the past was to double Kobe early and often, get the ball out of his hands and make anyone else beat them. If they do that tonight Kobe has to be the willing passer and guys like Gasol and Odom could be big beneficiaries.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start on TNT. And by 7:30 and TNT I really mean 7:45 at best. Then a three-hour game thanks to extended TV timeouts. But at least we will all be sure to know when the season finale of Saving Grace airs.

Kurt

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56 responses to Preview & Chat: The Denver Nuggets

  1. The fact that they have won 8 straight (though impressive) is not good news for Denver going to LA to play the Lakers. The Lakers are the streak stoppers.

    Should be a good game, can’t wait to see Bynum back and playing. I think the Lakers will take this as a statement game, against a team they lost to the last time they played and a potential WCF final match up. So we should see a focused Lakers team which is not good news for Denver.

  2. Kobe has to be a willing passer; is that you Mark Jackson? lol.

    That pretty much sums it up. Though no one has touched on JR Smith’s torrid output of late. The Lakers will need to run him off the three point line.

  3. the always relied upon-legendary battle between carmelo and vladmanovic will certainly be missed tonight…

  4. My big concern tonight??? The Lakers don’t guard the corner 3.

  5. My hunch is Farmar gets yanked after his first, momentum killing, ill-advised forray into the paint for Shannon Brown. Phil needs to send a message.

  6. We can match up w/ JR Smith by putting Trevor all over him. It will be interesting to see the Ariza/Walton minutes tonight. Definitely more of a Trevor game w/ Smith coming off the bench.

    This is the most excited I’ve been to be going to a game since the Lakers came back from the 6 game trip.

  7. If I’m Nene, I would call in sick tonight. Staples Center is going to be mad wild with Bynum’s return.

  8. i think i would prefer drew off the bench…LO plays much better as a starter. when he was coming off the bench for the first half of the season his numbers were not very impressive at all, but lately hes been looking really good

  9. News like this really hits home that this Lakers team could look much, much different in the near future, and that we should enjoy every minute we have:

    http://lakers.freedomblogging.com/2009/04/09/jackson-to-miss-fridays-game/14923/

  10. I’ll leave the Farmar debate in the last thread, only making one final point (which I’ve made before) – when Farmar sparks our bench in a few games in the playoffs and leads us to several wins (which I’m positive he will, because he has that kind of talent), I’m sure many of the Farmar lovers will come back to this debate, expecting the others to eat crow. So let it be said very clearly – the question with Farmar is not talent, but consistency. A good 3 game stretch in the playoffs is nothing unexpected, I’m fairly sure everyone is expecting that from Farmar.

    On to the Nuggets. This’ll be interesting, because this could likely be our WCF opponent (I honestly don’t see it, I think if the Jazz/Hornets/Rockets get things together, they’ll be much more dangerous).

    I haven’t seen the Mavs recently, but a Jazz beat writer claimed that the Lakers might be better off facing the slumping Jazz than the Mavs, who apparently are streaking recently. Are they really that different now, that they’re more dangerous than the Jazz? I’m very skeptical, but I haven’t watched them lately.

  11. lmao great comment from a poster at Basketbawful:

    “Shaq’s starting to remind me of a tick. You know the type that drinks so much blood, it weakens the animal so badly it becomes listless until it dies a slow agonizing death. After the animal dies, the tick tries to hop on to its next ride.”

    A somewhat accurate analogy, although that tick has been very dominant at times.

  12. RE: 10

    Actually, I hate to say, but I don’t think we’re going to see a few games in the playoffs where Farmar has a great game sparks the bench. He’s officially entered the Smush zone.

    I think the best we can hope for is there are few games in the playoffs where he comes in and isn’t a complete train wreck…

  13. Is Balkman really a “legitimate” big. I think we should be able to exploit him, I think LO could post him, and if Drew and Pau are out there together, Pau can post him too? How tall is Balkman, he can’t be over 6-7, 6-8, right?

  14. Screed indeed. Can a blogger or a blog “jump the shark”?

    I like that Drew has the few games to settle down. One of the reasons his numbers were so good before the injury was that things seemed to really be slowing down for him. Ball handling was crisper and post moves were deliberate.

  15. Kwame – Balkman is 6’8″ (according to most sources) but has a 7’1″ wingspan. He’s not as strong as Lamar. His hand quickness might give them some trouble, but I doubt it to be honest. I agree, he should be taken advantage of. In terms of basketball, I mean.

  16. 9. I’ve said this before, if Phil retires during this championship window, the Lakers need to hire Rambis or Shaw, whichever will keep the triangle and current systems in place. Not only do they work, look at what happened to Phoenix when they changed systems mid-stream. The results would likely not be as dramatic, but the lessons are the same.

  17. Snoopy2006,
    Now that is a fantastic nickname for Shaq if he moves on to Dallas.

    The Tick. The Tick. The Tick.

    Ha, ha, ha, ha. I can see the comic strip picture in my head as I type this.

  18. Well you’d have to throw “the Big” in there to Shaqify it. The Big Tick. It can’t be worse than the Big Shaqtus, in all honesty.

  19. The Laers will win tonight 104 to 101.

  20. If and when Phil goes, I do hope that the organization sees Rambis as the man for the job. He had reasonable success during the lockout season in 99 as the man at the helm, and I love that he is defensive oriented guy…which is much needed.

    He was VERY close to that Kings job in 07 before the Maloofs had a brain fart and hired pretty boy Coach Fuller from Hangtime. I don’t want to lose goggles!

  21. coffee is for closers April 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    If Phil has to leave for health reasons after this year, the job goes to whomever Kobe approves, especially bearing in mind he’s a free agent after next year.

  22. Melo thinks the west is wide open:
    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/0-39-52/Late-Thursday-Bullets.html

    Hoping to see a good game tonight, but that they are not too worn out for portland tomorrow (purely selfish – I’ll be there).

    Lakers.com blog says Drew is a game-time decision.

  23. Here’s a great article from the vault, your 2004 Lakers heading into the playoffs:

    http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1031812/index.htm

  24. 10, Snoopy, I’d have to disagree slightly, only in the fact that people actually believe Farmar will have a good three game stretch. Even the most optimistic of us don’t really believe Farmar will blow us out of the water with any single performance; we’re just hoping he’ll be a serviceable backup. Even so, as you say, a good 3 game stretch is not consistency. But neither is a bad 10 game stretch. Or a bad 20 game stretch. Or a bad 50 game stretch. As we’ve seen with Sasha and numerous other players, players can go an entire year playing above their means. If such is possible, you’d have to believe that players can spend an entire year playing BELOW their means.

    As for who we want in the playoffs, I’d take Dallas over the Jazz any day. We’re average at defending the PNR, and that’s all the Jazz run. We’re very good at beating teams that rely on Iso and keep the ball on one side of the floor for the majority of their points. While Dallas’s offense has opened up under Carlisle, their biggest strength is still Dirk’s other-worldly skills from 18 feet. That plays right into our SSZ, so I’d much rather have Dallas. As neither can defend us, it really comes down to who can score on us, and in that regard, I’ll take Dallas’s Iso-Dirk over Deron Williams cutting us to pieces.

    There is one thing that’s been really bothering me. Whenever I’m watching games being called by Joel and Stu, Joel has certain go-to phrases that really, really annoy me. #1 is “Points off turnovers!” but a close #2 is “(player’s name) with the (insert basketball-term) game.” Examples include “Pau with the face-up game,” “Andrew with the low-post game,” “Kobe with the mid-range game,” and “Fisher with the pull-up game.” I’m sorry Joel, these are not games. They’re actually subsets of this larger game we call basketball. Not only is it super annoying, it’s also really lazy announcing. Why not actually give a narration instead of going with the same annoying phrases over and over again? Sometimes I think I could do better play-by-play than Joel.

  25. The Rambis as head coach discussion made me recall the Rodman debacle, when that nut who never should have worn the purple and gold called Kurt out and said he was the worst coach he’d ever played for.

    I’m sure Kurt’s come a long way since then (and that he was never as bad as the Worm suggested). If he does replace Phil, it wouldn’t be a bad move. Nor would hiring B-Shaw.

    I rank the Rodman period up their with Magic’s brief coaching tenure as my worst periods as a Lakers fan.

    Coffee is for Closers is right: the gig goes to whomever Kobe likes. Second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is you’re fired.

  26. 10 – 3 games in a row? I would kill for Farmer to play well 3 games in a row in the playoffs. Sho nuff didn’t get that last post-season.

    And why the hate for the Diesel? That’s a Lakerts legend right there. I swear Glen Rice got more love here this season than Shaq.

  27. Shaq represents what could have been, really.

    Kobe would be hated just as much if he had left too. If not much, much, more.

    Anyway, let’s hope Bynum is confident.

  28. 27. I don’t think it is so much that Shaq left, it’s more how he behaves after he leaves. He basically calls out every player on his previous team and behaves as if they were all crappy teammates. This behavior can be seen from his verbal wars with Stan van Gundy this season.

    I do not think Kobe is going to behave the same way were to leave the Lakers. Personally, if Kobe left to play with the Bulls next season, the Bulls would become my second favorite team in the NBA.

  29. clutch lol it’s not hate, Shaq’s personality and oddities just lends itself to being made fun of.

    Harold – maybe, but I’m not completely sold. I used to love Shaq, but what soured me on him was the childishness. The Ron Jeremy-Van Gundy jokes, chasing a superb coach in SVG out of Miami so he could be coached by Riley, then 1 year later having to be physically separated from Riley in practice, then once being traded slamming everyone in Miami from Chris Quinn to their trainer Ron Culp. The list goes on and on. I think that’s what irritates some people about Shaq.

    With Kobe, all his flaws have been out of competitiveness. You won’t see him playing Tweet-tag anytime soon. So he might have been hated, but still admired and respected. Shaq, not so much (in general).

    By the way, does anyone here live in AZ? It’d be pretty damn fun to try to track Shaq down and get free tickets. The man’s a great entertainer.

  30. Harold,

    I don’t know about that. Like anon mentioned, I think Laker Nation was quite ready start rooting for the Bulls before last year.

    Snoopy,

    I figured you didn’t. I used your post to respond to a multitude of posts I’ve seen this year. And the G. Rice comparison amused me.

    To continue an irrelevant topic 2 hours from a Lakers game, I can’t defend anything Shaq has done. You’re right on all counts and I’ve stated as much in multiple debates over the years. However, that’s my 2nd favorite player since ’99. What can I do? And the kick in the groin he laid on Chris Quinn was so ridiculously wrong, it still boggles my mind. It only makes it worse that he was right, Quinn is garbage…

  31. “However, that’s my 2nd favorite player since ‘99. What can I do?”

    I think you just summed up how a lot of us feel. Shaq was my first childhood favorite player, so it was really hard to sour on him. I think it was definitely made easier by the fact that he was gone.

    And since we were earlier on the topic of coaching and Rambis, another flashback for anyone interested:

    http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1015915/index.htm

  32. 17) Craig – then Shaq could have a radio show named “Tick Talk”

  33. 24) Zephid – LOL, Yes, that is annoying when Stu does that, but not as annoying as that forced pause in the middle of every last sentence of one of his comments.

    Ex: “And that’s why – pause- they play the game.”

  34. Man, I didn’t remember PJ replacing Rambis. I only remembered the horror of Del Harris. Just thinking about Rambis potentially replacing PJ at any point makes me want to throw up.

  35. As far as the commentary goes, does anyone else think Spiro should be doing TV? When I listen to Joel, I feel like I’m listening to the crappy cookie-cutter commentary you get in sports video games. I would probably pay money if it meant Spiro replacing Joel.

  36. Snoopy/Clutch

    It will depend on how he leaves. Shaq was liked when he left because at that time, the public perception was that he was being ousted. If Kobe is forced to leave, Kobe will definately be liked; but if Kobe signed for the Clippers, I’m not so sure if they’d be everyone’s 2nd favorite team ;)

    Anyway, yeah, Shaq did a lot of damage by trying to be the center of public attention. Kobe does the same when pressed (a lot of his remarks are very self-centered and self-conscious) but at least he won’t go out of his way to make a public issue.

  37. exhel:

    Tick-Tack-TOE would be awesome. Him and his big toe. And he always tacked on to a superior wing player when he was successful…

  38. Shaq a childhood favorite…

    I guess that just shows my age. I remember watching Elgin, Jerry, then Wilt, then Kareem, then Magic. Shaq can’t hold a candle to those kinds of players/teammates.

    His big baby hi-jinks may get attention, but they sure shouldn’t endear him to anyone older than 15.

  39. Craig – I would have loved to seen Elgin/West play, or been able to compare Wilt or Kareem. But you can’t control when you’re born, and you naturally become attached to players you grow up with. Of course I find Sha

  40. The thing that bothers me is that some people (including Shaq himself) will write his antics off as some kind of marketing ploy, to enhance his image since he’s a “business man” … the whole thing is really just laughable. It’s not like when I see him being a douche I go, “Wow, now I’m gonna buy some Icy Hot.”

    Shaq, I love you, but sometimes, just stfu

  41. 24

    Spero Dedes FTW!!!!

    He is so much better than Joel “Length!” Meyers it’s not even funny.

  42. Sorry didn’t finish my comment for some reason.

    …Of course I find Shaq irritating now, but when you’re a kid and the media’s in love with him, you buy into it. Plus as a kid you don’t really analyze, just kinda enjoy the game. That kind of fanhood has its own fuzzy appeal.

  43. Craig,
    I’m twice that age, but it’s more about his complete domination of the L (for twice as long as the Dream) that endeared me to him, than his silly antics. I know you didn’t mean any offense, though.

  44. Live Blog underway

  45. Joel Meyers sounds like Skinner from the Simpsons, which I find kind of amusing. I’ve come to get used to him however, and can’t really say that I think that he’s that bad. Not stellar, but I’ve heard worse.

  46. clutch824,
    I did enjoy watching Shaq – no doubt. However, as all the talking heads were saying in 2004 about Kobe, he has never won anything by himself either and he acts like he is not only the icing on the cake, but the thing that makes the others great (first Penny, then Kobe, then Dwayne). Wilt was a much more competitive player than Shaq, and better at more facets of the game; plus he was also a more dominant force – both on the game and in the game. My issue with Shaq has always been that he had the talent to be the most dominant big man ever to play, but not the heart or drive. It is much the same as Lamar, except Lamar is so much a better person, with a better people heart, that I just have no time for Shaq and his antics.

    I think if Shaq had played with Michael Jordan, Jordan would have literally hired someone to take him out. Michael rode every one of his teammates so hard to win all the time that I doubt he would/could have played with someone who just wasn’t going to take every game seriously.

    Shaq was lucky that he got Kobe when he was a rookie, not 8 yrs later.

  47. why was I expecting sasha to just flush that dunk away on the open fastbreak… silly me, that queens game got me spoiled.

  48. “Length” and “points off turnovers” are not nearly as annoying as Joel’s verbal tic of “dozen”. “Lakers up by a half-dozen, Kobe’s got a dozen”, “two dozen turnovers for the Kings tonight…”.

    The only thing that surprises me is that he doesn’t call them “quarter-dozen pointers”.

  49. “I like turtles” April 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Any radio stations in LA doing post-game chats online? KLAc 570 is not airing any laker talk right now.

  50. I hope Andrew gives us our early season mojo back.

    At least today was promising.

  51. PeanutButterSpread April 10, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Why are there so less comments tonight?

    I was at the game tonight for my 22nd Birthday and first of all, I want to say, being at a game is SO MUCH better than watching it on TV. This was a fun game, but you could totally tell the Lakers were in cruise control.

    I don’t care if the fans aren’t as rowdy as others, just seeing Kobe play in person, for the first time in my life, I can die happy now.

    DREW!!! His first quarter wasn’t great, but in the 2nd half, he was a beast. WELCOME BACK!!!

    PAU!!!!! Always the consistent one, Pau had a great game, got tired at the end of the 3rd quarter, let Nene beat him on a couple of drives, but otherwise, it was beautiful watching El Spaniard gobble up those boards.

    KOBE!!!!!!!!!! I can not believe some of the ridiculous shots he made in this game. It was crazy. Unfreakin’ unbelievable. Like I said, I can die happy now.

    Shannon Brown, I believe he’s a new Laker fan favorite, he got a lot of positive cheers from the crowd. He did very well in Fish’s absence.

    D-Fish didn’t play well tonight :( It was really obvious, five fouls, 2 points, 1-2 free throws? Not good, there were soooo many open threes that he missed. We were really excited every time he launched one — but then he’d miss.

    The referees called this one really close and then other times they’d just let it go. I didn’t think they called it well for the Lakers or the Nuggets (but in the end, the Lakers got more foul shots so, why am I complaining?)

    Overall, sucked that there was no tacos tonight (darn you JR SMITH!) but a win is a WIN. And I still am on this incredible Laker high.

  52. It’s more thorns than roses for the Lakers in Portland’s rose garden. Hopefully, the Lakers will use a little Bynum-ite to clear the way!

    They could also use a little adrenalin to substitute for sleep.

    Here’s hopin’

  53. The term that both Joel and Spiro use that I ABSOLUTELY HATE is “flush”.

    It’s a DUNK
    It’s a SLAM
    but FLUSH????
    he FLUSHED it???

    Flush is what you do to a turd

    That is all :)

  54. Lakers fans today:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_v468ptuXw

    The rest of the league:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bzWSJG93P8

    Hope we make a statement tonight.

  55. Finally new post up