Lakers/Nuggets: Kobe’s Fingerprints All Over This Win

Darius Soriano —  January 22, 2011

When previewing this game, I mentioned that a major key to this match up would be for the Lakers to play a controlled game where they kept an even keel and didn’t let the emotion of the game get away from them. Well, they were able to do just that as they defeated the Nuggets 107-97. The Lakers played with precision and focus, ultimately showing that in a game that could have gone either way (especially at half time) that they could still seize control of a game and take down an opponent with a deliberate attack.

At the start of the game, the Lakers showed their hand early by trying to establish the interior with post ups. Bynum are Pau were both featured from the get go and while both big men missed some bunnies inside, the plan was clear. The Lakers were going to go inside and attack Nene and Kenyon Martin and make them defend the rim.

But while the Lakers probed the interior trying to find their rhythm, Ron Artest started the contest with his game in a groove. He too went to work inside, getting his first three baskets on lay-ins after attacking Carmelo on quick moves to the rim and strong post ups. He then complemented his inside scores with a corner three pointer that pushed his first quarter point total to 9. Ron’s early offense kept the Lakers in the game and his work on that side of the ball seemed to only fuel his defensive effort against Carmelo Anthony. Ultimately, Ron scored 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting while helping to hold a frustrated Carmelo Antony to only 23 points on 24 shots from the field.

In the 2nd quarter it wasn’t the starters that made the difference, though, it was the bench unit. With about 2 minutes remaining in the first frame, Phil went to the group consisting of Blake, Brown, Walton, Odom, and Gasol to settle the team down and see if they could finally put together some consistent offense and defense. This group rewarded Phil’s faith by executing well on both sides of the  ball and getting the team into a rhythm that would last the rest of the game. Mind you, they didn’t cut into the 3 point deficit that began the first quarter (the Lakers trailed by that same three points at the half) but what they did do was slow the game down and start to convert on the types of plays that the Lakers wanted to emphasize. Using an inside-out attack and good ball movement, the Lakers got good looks at the hoop for Odom and Gasol (and later Bynum) and then swung the ball back outside for shots by Shannon and Blake. When shots missed the Lakers used their excellent floor balance and spacing to hit the offensive glass and get second shots at the hoop. By the time halftime came, the Lakers had grabbed 8 offensive rebounds which helped them stay close as the Nuggets continued to score the ball well by knocking down threes (5 of 11 in the first half) and get into the open court.

Where the game turned, though, was in the 3rd quarter. Right when the period started, it was obvious that Kobe was going become a more active participant in the Lakers’ sets and not just rely on simple post ups to the bigs to get the Lakers going on offense. After playing set up man and facilitator in the first half (taking only 4 shots), Kobe came out shooting in the third period making 6 of his 10 shots from the floor and completely taking over the game on offense. Mind you, he didn’t dominate simply by making shots. Instead Kobe mixed in pin-point passes with his fantastic baseline jumpers and post ups from both low blocks to completely dissect the Nuggets defense. When Denver double teamed him, he ably kicked out to shooters both with simple strong side kickouts and precise skip passes to the weak side to set up shooters. Every time Kobe touched the ball he seemed to make the correct read and by the time the quarter was over he had poured in 14 points and 4 assists in the frame playing a major role in turning the Lakers 3 point halftime deficit into a 10 point lead going into the 4th. You really can’t say enough about the offensive clinic he put on as Denver literally had no clue how to go about slowing him, and subsequently, the team down in that period.

The final 12 minutes was much of the same from the Lakers as they combined their 2nd and 3rd quarter showings to create a solid 4th quarter that would see Denver gain no ground. In the last period the bench came in and played well like they had earlier and then the starters came in after their normal rest to clean up the rest of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers had proven that, on this night at least, their focus and determination could not be disrupted by Denver. Every small push by the Nuggets was countered and whether it was a set play to get Pau a lob or just a power post up by Bynum, the Lakers continued with their game plan of attacking the paint to keep Denver at bay.

A couple of other key stats/notes from this game:

*I mentioned that the Lakers had 8 first half offensive rebounds, but they kept that pace up for the rest of the game finishing with 15. Gasol had 6 on the night to go along with 7 defensive boards and 19 points – included in both his o-rebound and point total was a snare of a Shannon Brown miss at the end of the third quarter that Gasol put-back to before the horn sounded to push the Lakers lead to 10. On twitter I called that board a “man’s rebound” as Pau muscled his way inside and grabbed the ball between two Nuggets.  On the night the Lakers out rebounded the Nuggs by 20, 47-27.

*Kobe played a great game on offense, but so did his counterpart. Arron Afflalo had 22 points on only 11 shots and made 5 of his 7 three point attempts. Whenever Kobe (or another defender) left him, Afflalo made the Lakers pay with another made jumper. After he made a few in a row you would have thought that the Lakers would have paid a bit more attention to him but with the defense clearly geared on slowing Anthony, Billups, and to a lesser extent Nene, Afflalo just continued to be the open man. Luckily tonight his ability to knock down shots didn’t turn the game but you could see that he was ready and able to take advantage of the space given to him.

*I mentioned Pau’s 19 points, but LO and Bynum also had very good games (again). Even though Drew suffered through some foul issues in the 2nd half, he was still able to play 27 minutes scoring 17 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 2 shots. LO, meanwhile, had 18 and 10 with 2 assists off the bench. Combined that’s 55 points, 30 rebounds, and 6 assists for the Lakers’ trio of bigs and as James said in the comments: “This is one of those games where I’m reminded how unfair it is to have Pau, Drew and Lamar on the same team.”

Darius Soriano

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to Lakers/Nuggets: Kobe’s Fingerprints All Over This Win

  1. I got to give props to an earlier thread talking about Phil’s genius is getting his team to prevent the other team from getting into their desired flow – thus frustrating the shooters, even when they have open looks.

    I watched for that tonight, along with listening to Hubie instead of our vanilla announcers, and saw what he was talking about.


  2. Great game by Kobe and Ron, as you said. Regarding the Nuggets, I just have a wet dream of seeing Afflalo dress in purple whenever Kupchak is able to get him…


  3. LA won this game (and this game is an indicator of what they CAN do in the playoffs against a quality team) at least in part because, aside from the first moments, when DEN came out flying, it was played at LA’s pace.

    When LA is patient and runs its offense, they either score, or at least get a good look that doesn’t create a huge run-out for the other team. This isn’t news, of course. What is news is, for the first time in some time, LA never really abandoned the plan (except for a short stretch in the second where the lead the bench got us evaporated in a short flurry of contested jumpers). It gives me some hope the team can focus. And, the playoffs are played more in the half-court.

    That said, Nene and Martin are physical defenders, but they were clearly overmatched from a pure size standpoint. I’ll be interested to see if these lessons and improvements carry over to the Boston and SA games coming up.


  4. I haven’t been able to see much basketball recently, but from the little I have seen something mentioned in this recap really resonated.

    I think the past couple of years a lot of people have commented on how the Lakers can play whatever kind of game the other team wanted to play. Although this is an exaggeration, there was some truth to it.

    I think now that is no longer the case. The Lakers (due to age and personnel) have to play their game to win (against good opponents). A deep playoff run this year is going to require far more discipline from the team and each player, than past years.


  5. VoR,
    I’m not sure if it’s that as much as this roster still hasn’t figured out the best way to play together.


  6. Phil has shortened Shannon’s minutes in favor of Blake running the offense correctly. This has affected Brown’s confidence as he’s rushing his shots now as compared to before when he was settling into his shots. With the added minutes, Blake is finally finding his role on the team and has looked like the Blake we all envisioned.


  7. Reign on Parades January 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

    7. I feel like both Shannon and Blake should both get more run at the expense of the atrocious 4 games out of 5 Luke Walton and Fisher who after looking pretty good to start the season now has a worse eFG% and TS% then he did last year, when he was awful.

    At least while Barnes is out


  8. fun game to watch, a couple things I took away from the game –
    1) the Lakers could NOT miss in the second half, I’d like to know what their shooting percentage was in the 3rd and 4th quarters, I bet it was very very high. (so, we got a little luck there)

    2) near the end of the game, when Denver was still thinking they could cut the lead down enough for a miracle win, there was that one possession where Ron grabbed about 3 offensive rebounds and each time brought the ball out to reset the shot clock…
    that possession then wound up eating about a minute and a half, and resulted in a score as well, (I think)…
    that my friends, was Ron essentially winning that game for us! at least took the life out of the Nugg’s, ie; game over.


  9. It also helps that the classic Laker-killer Mr. JR Smith, decided to throw in the towel after not getting into rhythm. As a basketball fan, that’s fairly disappointing to see, but as a Laker fan, for one night, I’m glad he didn’t go off. The Nuggets have the pieces, I think to be a good team when healthy, but the chemistry is just so “iffy”.

    I was waiting for at least a mini-push by the Nuggets at the middle to end of the fourth, but it never really came. It was almost a disinterested feel by the end of it. Our second half rhythm, I think played a major role in that lack of enthusiasm for the home team.


  10. Whatever struggles Ron-Ron has had this year, there’s still nobody else that guards Durant, Carmelo, and Pierce like him…