No Time To Rest — First Denver Thoughts

Kurt —  May 17, 2009

NBA: APR 09 Nuggets at Lakers
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.

228 responses to No Time To Rest — First Denver Thoughts

  1. If there is one thing i learned from this post is that if the readership gives an overwhelming response, Kurt will feel forced to write a new thread.

    I think I’ll be making the best of this knowledge now 😉

    Off topic (should be obvious now as to why i stray), but just got back from reading Hollinger’s Kobe vs. LeBron.

    I have to admit I agree with most of it, except that I keep having trouble with him using PER (and with its emphasis on rebounding, as well as it completely ignoring players’ roles in particular teams and systems), and that despite his love of stats, he seems to disregard the value of 81 (and the Dallas outburst) because they came against inferior competition with inferior teammates.

    Sure he could have just ‘normalized it’ and added it to the stats and averaged it, but if one were to evaluate Kobe, you just can’t dismiss his ridiculous scoring capabilities which were ‘allowed’ to be put in full display.


  2. Jim – Do you watch these games at all? Hayes is in this league for 1 reason and 1 reason only – his defense. Of course he’s going to be better at it than Yao. Are you denying that he’s quicker than Yao? Are you denying how much trouble his lower stance gave Pau when they first faced off? Any fan who watched this series remembers how much difficulty Pau had backing Hayes down, and taking difficult shots outside his comfort zone. It wasn’t until he went to spin finesse moves or facing up that he started to get the better of Pau. It feels like you’re not even watching these games when you make claims like “how does a 6’6″ guy stop Pau in the post?” He doesn’t stop him, but he sure made life hell for Pau in the post early on.

    Nuggets Nation – Not all Lakers fans. I have a ton of respect for any Billups led team (it’s called the 04 Finals) and think this series will be a real battle.


  3. Denver’s about to get a rude awakening. To say they’re championship material ’cause they beat up on two injured teams is a joke. Denver doesn’t have a real center on their entire roster (no, Elson doesn’t count). LA should continue with their game 7 strategy against Houston and run every play through Pau and Bynum. All Denver can (and will) do is foul and then complain about it.


  4. No one has the right to tell someone else what to think, but wow…I’m with Nuggets Nation, actually. Some of these comments dismissing the Nuggets are kind of extreme.

    I hope everyone’s right. A 5 game series would be nice. I guess since the 2004 Finals I’ve had the ultimate respect for Billups, and I really like the defense they’re playing and the way their bench gives them a lift. Sometimes simple match-ups aren’t enough, sometimes a cohesive unit can overcome matchup problems. Just hope I’m wrong this time around.

    wiseolgoat did a great job with the last series – what’s your call, goat?


  5. If I didn’t say this already, I apologize, I should have: The biggest favor we can do the Nuggets is to underestimate them and treat this as a cakewalk.

    Billups is scary. You can bring up his age, his declining speed, whatever negative thing about him you want, I will maintain until the day he retires that he is a scary guy to have on the opposing team. Carmelo Anthony may be a headcase (wait, we just got done with Artest, never mind), but he’s a very productive scorer, to say the least. The rest of the team is not exactly a bunch of incompetent wusses either.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still think that in the end the Lakers will win. But I don’t for a moment think it is going to be easy, or that we won’t have to fight for it. If nothing else, I expect the Nuggets bench to out-perform ours, and that will eventually lead to problems.


  6. Snoopy,

    Pau’s stats

    Games 1-3 16ppg 11r
    Games 4-7 20ppg 13r

    It doesn’t appear that Hayes was anymore effective at stopping Pau than Yao was. If anything, he was actually worse.


  7. Stats don’t capture the fact that many of those points came when Scola (or, less frequently) Cook were guarding him.

    Also, re-read my last sentence. I didn’t say Hayes stopped him, I said he made things more difficult. Pau had to adjust his game to get those points, more than he had to with Yao. Pau’s offense was inefficient until he realized spin/finesse moves and facing Hayes up were the best ways to attack him.

    And if you still think Yao is better than Hayes at PnR defense, then I’m not sure what else to say.


  8. 210, Well if you think the Rockets are better without Yao and that a 6’6″ is a better post defender than a seven footer, then most people would have nothing else to say.


  9. Don’t put words in other people’s mouths. Yes, I think if the Rockets cut Yao and started Chuck Hayes they would have made it to Game 7 of the Western Semifinals. In fact, if they cut Artest and start Wafer they might make it through to the Finals next year.

    I never once said they were better without Yao, I only responded to the question you posed in 183, at someone who, clearly wiser than me, decided not to bang their head against a wall.


  10. Snoopy2006,
    He was responding to a comment of mine. Occasionally we get one of these people, but they usually get tired and leave after about a week.


  11. I will be very surprised if this series does not go 6 or 7.


  12. Craig I am actually at work and it is amusing to see Lakers’ fans attempting to be “objective.” And, yes I will be gone as soon as the playoffs are over.


  13. So, Jim, what is your prediction for the WCF and why?


  14. Less than 23 hours to go…

    We NEED this game considering the talk about anime and such today, Joe A., yeah do the Playoff teams I am interested.


  15. Jim, Utah was missing key players in the regular season that they had in the playoffs. Hence the worse regular season record. I don’t know how much more I can spell this out for you.


  16. OK, how would the Lakers have matched up against the terrorists in the “Diehard” movies? Assuming everyone is 100% healthy.


  17. It’s one thing to come on here when the Lakers aren’t playing great to complain about the team, or to read other Laker fans do the ripping. It’s ok for us to be reactionary – but, it totally gets to me that EVERYBODY in the media has left the Lakers for dead right now.

    We have no heart. We are disgraceful. We don’t deserve to win it all because we don’t try all the time and we are too up and down. Too arrogant and entitled.

    Everything I have read says the Lakers can’t win it this year because we lack toughness or we don’t play the right kind of defense. Like every team in NBA history that won it all fit a particular mold. All champs are not carbon copies of each other.


  18. Since so many people were requesting the full rundown (thanks ST! ;-)), here you go:
    08/09 Season playoff teams ranked in order of winning % against other playoff teams:
    (worst to first)

    1. Det: 12 W, 29%, 30% (E-32%, W-25%)?
    2. Phi: 15 W, 37%, 37%(E-36%, W-38%)?
    3. Chi: 16 W, 37%, 39% (E-33% W-44%)?
    4. Mia: 18 W, 44%, 42% (E-48% W-25%)?
    5. Utah:18 W, 44%, 38% (E-38% W-48%)?
    6. Dal: 19 W, 45%, 38%, (E-56%, W-38%)
    7. NO: 19 W, 46%, 39% (E-50%, W-41%)?
    8.SA: 20 W, 49%, 37%, (E-50%, W-48%)
    9. Atl: 20 W, 49%, 43%(E-48%, W-50%)
    10. Por: 21 W, 50%, 39% (E-56% W-46%)
    11. Den: 22 W, 51%, 41% (E-50% W-52%)
    12. Hou:24 W, 56%, 45% (E-63% W-52%)
    13. Orl: 26 W, 63%, 44% (E-64% W-63%)
    14. Bos: 29 W, 69%, 47% (E-77% W-56%)
    15. Cle: 30 W, 70%, 45% (E-67% W-75%)
    16. LA: 29 W, 71%, 45% (E-63%, W-76%)

    Stats = Total wins, W%, Percent of total wins that came against playoff teams- and records against Eastern and Western playoff teams.


  19. That’s what happens if you don’t ‘dominate’ teams. They think they find chinks in your armor and start believing that there is hope.

    And when you believe, things happen.

    As for Denver vs. LA… if there’s one thing I know about this team is that I don’t know which team’s going to show up. Especially on the first game.

    But I’m fairly confident that we’ll take Game 2 if we lose in Game 1.


  20. Sorry, just to be clear- the first % listed= winning percentage against playoff teams only.

    …and those question marks don’t mean anything- they snuck into my formatting somehow.

    Houston looks pretty good based on this metric- 2nd best team in the West! And Atlanta is better than many gave them credit for- at least in the regular season.


  21. “Don’t underestimate the upside of bipolarity”

    If Hyde decides to show up before Jekyll, we’ll have this series. If it’s Bruce that shows up as opposed to the Hulk, oh well.


  22. I never knew that carmelo and kobe were close friends


  23. … and you know how some people talk about how Phoenix would be a 4 or 5 seed if they were in the East?

    Pho: 38% 37% (E-38% W-38%)

    They really only played significantly better than Detroit against Playoff teams. They’d be right there with Chi/Phi fighting for the 6-7 spot probably.

    Sorry none of this has anything to do with the original post.


  24. It’s possible the Nuggets will win, but more likely that the Lakers will mop the floor with them IMHO. The experts are making the same mistake now as they did picking the Lakers in the finals last year. The Lakers have historically given the Nuggets problems, they’ve been the better team all year, and they have home court. Struggling in the 2nd round doesn’t negate all that.


  25. Joe A., thanks, Yeah, Houston was right up there with the big boys this year and we got them in the 2nd round of the Playoffs, no wonder it went 7 games. It is commenters like all of you on this thread that really makes this blog great, for me at least.
    “mop the floor with them”, I just love it.


  26. upon re-reading my own posts, sure there was a flare of being a biased laker fan but what else could a laker fan say? so as long as we give our due to all angles (which is consuming but fair) i think the proper raising of our team or the tempered bashing of our team can be warranted as good advice.

    i am not dismissing the nuggets. i just feel good about our lakers waking up and living up to our true beastly potential. now, denver is also peaking and nugget nation is true on a lot of points in his voice out. but i think we peak in this series and let’s just see which wins the day.

    the lakers shouldn’t be dismissed based on round 2 as well. that is laker nation’s response to the grudge going on right now even with some analysts. to say lakers don’t deserve it is plain not objective and unprofessional. i don’t care if you want to sound as some hot item or some nuisance. give the lakers some slack or don’t talk about them at all.

    looking forward to your new post kurt. GO LAKERS!