I’m not going to list all the quotes, suffice to say that after the game the Lakers players all said the right things about lessons learned and bringing this game seven energy and effort to the next series and so on. Take it with a grain of salt, they’ve said that all year. But we can hope.
There’s not a lot of time to break down the Nuggets, but we’re going to start right away, and do so with some thoughts from the very good Jeremy at Roundball Mining Company. As people who were around last playoffs will tell you, Jeremy knows basketball and the Nuggets, and you’ll see a fair amount of him here in the coming weeks.
The thing that has impressed me about the Nuggets so far in the playoffs has been their interior defense — it was a weakness a year ago, now they look good. Is that because of the competition they faced in the postseason (fearsome offensive forces like Tyson Chandler and Eric Dampier), or are they actually better?
The Nuggets defense is still a little up and down, but the up is so far beyond anything they have been capable of in the past. Denver has been fortunate to play a couple of teams that did not provide much of an interior threat. Tyson Chandler was clearly far from healthy and David West had no chance to score against Kenyon Martin in the post so he shot nothing but jumpers.
Against Dallas Erick Dampier lacked the talent to attack the Nuggets’ interior defense, but Dirk demolished whoever tried guarding him in the post, but Denver basically refused to double him for fear of giving up a hoard of open three pointers.
Should Denver play the Lakers I fully expect Pau Gasol to make life miserable for the Nuggets. There is no one who matches up very well with him. Chris Andersen is probably the best matchup, but I do not think he can cover Gasol very long without Pau getting him in foul trouble.
To me the key is Andrew Bynum. If Bynum is healthy and contributing, the Lakers will have a big advantage in the paint. Nene has appeared intimidated by Bynum on offense and if Nene is matched up against Bynum Kenyon Martin will be guarding Gasol. Needless to say Pau has a big advantage of Kenyon with his length and he would dominate that matchup.
If Bynum is only playing a few minutes and Odom is playing the rest that makes things much more palatable for Denver. Nene has the strength to force Pau off the block and Kenyon can stay with Odom wherever he wants to go.
A big key this year from last year is Dahntay Jones provides a much better option to guard Kobe thus allowing Kenyon to guard someone else. Jones was the key to defending Chris Paul, but in the second
round he was not nearly as important as Anthony Carter was a much better matchup for defending Jason Terry. Next round, Jones will be much more important.