Can the Lakers control the paint?
In the second half of game three the Lakers did that — most importantly they kept Melo out of the lane, he had no baskets in the paint or anywhere else in the second half. Part of that was better defense inside by the Lakers, and part of that was that Denver fell in love with the jumper, especially the three, but couldn’t hit it. That will not happen again, be sure that they will attack the rim in game four. The Lakers defense needs to be ready, Bynum and Gasol needs some blocks without fouls.
At the other end of the floor, for all the Kobe amazing shots, it’s about getting points in the paint. Denver has basically taken a page out of the Celtics defensive schemes against the Lakers, and the Lakers need to counter that by getting the ball inside to Gasol/Bynum or a posted up Kobe, then making the smart pass out of the double, moving the ball and moving without the ball. Then hitting the shot when they get the look.
In the first half of game three, Denver got points inside by sending cutters that exposed the Lakers strong side zone defense — flooding the zone them hitting someone cutting off the weak side — and you can bet they will go back to that tonight. The Lakers defenders on the weak side need to be aware and be ready to cut those off. Denver can’t get that many layups if the Lakers expect to win.
One other reason the Nuggets got out on top to start the game was they took advantage of transition opportunities, both off turnovers and misses. They are running on everything they can, and on misses they are getting a lot of offense out of secondary break plays (drag screens, guys running to the three point line, etc.). The Lakers have to play much better transition defense, and be more aware of who is running and get to their man..
One final thing I think the Lakers will see more of tonight is Linas Kleiza. The guy is +16 for the series and the Nuggets are -21 for the series when he sits. He was a game changer in Denver’s win, and Karl is going to go with what is working.
What I hope to see in game four is more transition basketball from the Lakers. Game three saw more breaks and opportunities than the first two games, the Lakers good advantage of that, and they need to build on that.
The other thing the Lakers did well last game was get the ball to Kobe running him off screens coming off the high post. The Nuggets will counter this in an effort to continue playing ball-denial for Kobe. This is going to open other things up on give and goes and other counters — the Lakers players (Fisher for one) need to make the Nuggets pay when they do this. If Denver wants to take Kobe out of the game then their needs to be a cost.
We can expect another close game. Denver will come out playing with more desperation and energy than they did last game — they cannot afford to go down 3-1. Will the Lakers play loose like a team with nothing to lose after getting a win in game three? Which team will do better fighting through the exhaustion of last game? Will Denver or the Lakers execute best down the stretch?
This is going to be a fun one to watch.
A few more haikus from after the last game.
Melo sad for loss
Lakers in the driver’s seat
Rip by Ariza
Kobe cuts out George Karl’s heart
Bloody, eats it raw