Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Phillip Barnett —  January 1, 2012

Records: Lakers 3-2 (4th in West), Nuggets 2-2 (8th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.3 (14th in NBA), Nuggets 105.6 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 96.5 (4th in NBA), Nuggets 98.9 (9th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nuggets: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Nene Hillario
Injuries: Lakers: Derrick Caracter (out); Nuggets: none

The Lakers Coming In: After yesterday’s ugly win, the Lakers have now won three straight under Mike Brown and continue to grow as a unit. Yesterday saw the return of Andrew Bynum, and what a return it was. 29 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. ‘Drew asserted himself early with 10 points and three rebounds in the first, and continued to play well on both sides of the floor throughout the remainder of the game. Bynum just didn’t look good himself, but as Brian Kamenetzky pointed out, his presence created a lot of good looks for the other Lakers on the floor.

Bynum and Pau Gasol have always had moments where they struggle working together on the block, and given the relative lack of familiarity with Mike Brown’s system, that there were moments Saturday where it seemed like the two of them couldn’t quite work out spacing is no surprise. But between the high number of putbacks and deep post opportunities for Bynum, all high percentage, and an almost endless stream of open mid-range jumpers for Gasol (few are as automatic with those), the Lakers were treated to a lot of good opportunities for their bigs.

Having Bynum and Gasol both available on the pick and roll posed serious problems for the Nuggets, as well. In the first half, Kobe came over a Bynum screen, and as the defense collapsed on him and watched Drew roll to the bucket, Pau snuck out to the elbow for a jumper. In the fourth, Kobe used Gasol in the P’n’R, then found Bynum coming off the weakside block for a lob.

Suffice to say, this Lakers team just got a whole lot better with the return of Bynum. With his return, the Lakers’ bench is also bolstered with Josh McRoberts added to the group. While the 2nd unit was outplayed yesterday, McBob coming off the bench bodes well for this group going forward as they were already a high energy bunch, and McRoberts might play with the most energy on the team.

The Nuggets Coming In: Even though the Nuggets suffered their second loss of the season at the hands of the Lakers last night, they were given ample opportunities to go into the new year with a 3-1 record. The Lakers turned the ball over and took bad shots down the stretch and the Nuggets countered with missed free throws and a huge missed layup by Danilo Gallinari that would have tied the game with about four seconds left to play. Furthermore, they continued their struggles from behind the arc, shooting just seven-for-26 from range.

The bright spots for Denver definitely came off the bench as Andre Miller scored 13 points and recorded a couple of the craftiest assists I’ve seen this season. Al Harrington scored 21 and played within the flow of the offense for the better part of his 29 minutes.

Nuggets Blogs: Roundball Mining Company is a great site for all your Nuggets news and analysis.

Keys to the Game: One of the biggest reasons the Lakers were able to come away with the win yesterday was their ability to keep Denver out of transition. Denver finished the game with 17 fast break points, their lowest total of the season. For the Lakers to win their fourth consecutive game, they can’t just duplicate that performance, but actually must do a better job of finding shooters on fast break and secondary breaks. There were several times where Denver shooters spotted up wide open in transition and simply missed the shot. The Lakers did a great job at building a wall when Lawson raced up the court, preventing him from living in the paint and creating opportunities, but after the initial wall, it’s going to be crucial to find shooters tonight.

While in their half court defense, the Lakers’ backside defender can’t continue to get sucked too far into the paint. What I’ve noticed this season much more than any of the previous three seasons has been the opposing team’s penchant for making the skip pass to spot up shooters on the wing or in the opposite corner. The defensive rotation kinks still haven’t all been worked out, which is giving opposing teams wide-open looks behind the arc. This was evidenced yesterday as the Nuggets hit three wide-open corner three-pointers in the fourth quarter because of quick ball reversals or skip passes. Take a look at how this Aaron Afflalo three developed.

The ball is brought up on the right side by Andre Miller. Josh McRoberts is assigned Afflalo, who is headed for the left corner, making McRoberts the back side defender.

The ball goes to Al Harrington in the right corner. Right now, all five Lakers are in good position. McRoberts has a foot in the paint and knows where the ball and his man are.

After an entry pass back to Miller who took Steve Blake to the post, McRoberts slides all the way over instead of Bynum sliding down. After already being burnt by the corner three a few times, and considering Chris Anderson isn’t as much of a threat to score, this is the Lakers’ first mistake. If Bynum slides down, Miller isn’t going to challenge him, and he’s already in position to challenge Birdman should he receive the pass and drive to the hoop. If Birdman catches that pass and takes a jump shot, the Lakers are happy with that defensive possession.

Instead, Miller kicks it out to a wide open Rudy Fernandez (Jason Kapono was sucked in much too far as well) who could have taken a wide-open three had the pass been on target.

Fernandez makes the extra pass and no one is within five feet of Afflalo as he releases the wide-open three in the corner. Watch the play in real time.

This is a correctable mistake, and will need to be corrected tonight. Should Denver catch fire from behind the arc tonight, it could prove costly for this Lakers team.

Lastly, the Laker offense did some really good things last night, especially with Kobe in facilitator mode early on. With Pau knocking down the mid-range jumper with consistency, it gave Kobe two good P&R options, leading to his nine assists on the night. The P&R work between Kobe and Pau or Bynum also created some very good looks for shooters along the perimeter. Like the Nuggets, the shots just weren’t falling – which might be an understatement as they shot a mere two-for-24 on the afternoon from range.

Later in the game, Kobe took some questionable shots outside of the flow of the offense, which he is going to do from time to time, but I’d like for him to take advantage of the eyes on him every time he touches the ball for the full 48 minutes. Bean made some beautiful passes to Bynum and Pau early in the game, and had the opportunity to make a few more late in the third and into the fourth, but chose to call his own number instead. With his ability to create his own shot, he can get shots up whenever he likes, but getting the ball to Bynum and Pau, who were both very comfortable against the Nuggets defense will only open things up for him when they matter most.

Where you can watch: 5 p.m. start time on KCAL. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Phillip Barnett


81 responses to Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

  1. Sorry for the poor quality of that video. Don’t know what went wrong. I’ll post a higher quality video as soon as I have one available.

  2. New video inserted with much better quality. Thanks for the patience, guys.

  3. If you use opponent field goal percentage as the primary metric, the Lakers have the best defense in the NBA.

  4. Phillip, game is also on KCAL 9 in the Los Angeles market

  5.  You know it’s time to retire when you get articles written about you for diving on the floor for a key loose ball in a regular season game. Even Ron Artest has to score 19 points for two straight games for that kind of coverage. Derek Fisher has a story about him in every publication for last nights hustle play. Sometimes you know it’s time to call it a career when people have lowered the bar for you so significantly that a nine point, 6 foul, one loose ball effort is a great game for yourself worthy of several articles. This might have been the game where “Fish jumped the shark.”

  6. Good catch, Glove. It’s changed in the post.

  7. Now that both teams know the other`s tendencies,the team that can make the best adjustments tonight should come out on top. Denver has to go all out to rotate guys at Bynum,forcing him to pass or force shots. LA can`t settle for the three early in the clock,and per the video do a better job defending the 3pt line.

  8. it’s also on the NBA League Pass, which is free for me until Jan 8th, then I have to decide if it’s worth $40/month… if they (the Lakers) keep up this “Stuntmen” routine, I think I’ll sign up, I loved watching that Dodger team, led by Mickey Hatcher and the stuntmen, all the way to the pennant!

  9. to dearest aaron,

    Dfish’s hustle won the game, foo (so did gallinari’s chokejob)

    500 games in a row. If world was on line, Fisher would make the shot.

    Try for some optimism this year.

  10. We all love Fish, however as harsh as it may seem, everything reaches an expiration date. AC Green (since we are talking about consecutive games) had to eventually retire. I do agree with the clutch shot making however, hence – keep him on the team, and play him about 10 minutes per game (clutch shots and leadership).

  11. Fisher with the steal, then Gasol with a J, then Fisher again with an under the basket shot in.

  12. I doubt that the Lakers or Nuggets had enough practice time to make any major adjustments.

    If the Lakers can slow the pace down then they should win the game. Establish the D, No easy transistion points and on offense dump the ball into Pau and (most likely) a visably tired Bynum and let those two carry the team.

  13. Someone have a link?

  14. Denver has no answer for Bynum inside.

  15. For all the talk about Kobe, Fisher’s shot selection has been even worse than usual this season. What the hell was that last possession?

  16. honestly it’s not point to even discuss what fisher does wrong. It’s not going to change any time soon. He is what he is. He has his positives and negatives.

    But one thing i don’t like about this offense already is that Kobe is almost never in the post. I understand why he isn’t in the post when andrew and pau are in the game. But when one of the two sits down. Kobe should have some looks in the post. Ron Artest has probably quadrupled post touches so far this season.

  17. At this moment it s the worst LA line up I ve seen in a looong time.


  18. kobe’s body language is very poor tonight, looks completely unintersted, perhaps flu..

  19. for the love of god someone please hit a 3!!

  20. Both teams look ragged. Lakers look old and tired right now (don’t blame them). I think it’s going to be a long night.

  21. How many bricks will it take for Kobe to stop forcing threes?

  22. The Lakers look tired, not getting to lose balls, slow rotations on defense and flat shots. Could be a long night

  23. kb is a black hole tonight

  24. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bynum was the teams best player by far yesterday and today the only person who will pass him the ball is Derek Fisher. I’ll say what I want about Fishers abilities but one thing you can’t call him is a selfish/jealous player.

  25. I think Brown needs to go deep into the bench tonight and give the starters light minutes. Let the vets rest.

  26. the offense is so ugly.

  27. In the second half of the first quarter, Kobe reminded me of Smush Parker.

    I know–I already washed my mouth out with soap!

  28. Yes, 6 games in 8 nights is what this looks like. Great, Kobe just got his 28,000 points on that free throw.

  29. See what happens when you go inside?

  30. is Kobe trying to achieve the worst FG% in a game in NBA history?
    Otherwise I don t get it…

  31. What is Kobe doing tonight? Bynum and Pau are a combined 10/16 FG, Kobe is 3/18 and still looking to hoist long jumpers. SMH

  32. I am Kobe’s biggest advocate and I’ll defend him till I die but anyone who is shooting 3/18 (superstar or not) should know it’s time to pass the ball

  33. @30. Exactly. Kobe needs to stop forcing up shots. Wonder if Mike Brown is afraid to tell Kobe to stop shooting so much.

  34. Is there a higher quality link than the one posted above to the game? Thanks.

  35. Psiwolf, I use for all my sports streams. They have 3 Laker-Nuggets ones right now –

  36. @32 League Pass is free during all this week and next one.
    You can see the game there in Hd and it s completely legal.

  37. @32. LP in the nba website is free for all this week and the next one.You can see the game there in perfect HD and is completely legal.

  38. Kobe is being lazy and just settling. So what his jumper isn’t falling, he needs to create easy baskets for his teammates in stead of being a black hole.

  39. Can someone please tell Kobe to stop shooting.

  40. Kobe’s misses are going to lead the lakers to a loss. Watch!

  41. He doesn’t necessarily need to stop shooting, he needs to take better shots. At some point you have to realise the jumper is not working for you.

  42. Just like yesterday, Kobe misses the long jumper and lets Galinari run back for the easy layup (which he made this time).

  43. I thought Kobe’s jumper was looking strong to start the season – good elevation, nice follow through – but today, it’s like he doesn’t have it at all. He’s missing a lot of simple looks from mid range. As for the continual firing from 3 range – he’s gotta cut that out.

  44. I told you so! Haha

  45. This game is all on Kobe. Period.

  46. Kobe has been just awful. He’s been stubborn and impatient. Literally time Gallinari defends Kobe, Kobe settles for a 3 pointer misses and refuses to get back on defense. Wow.

  47. OK wow. Kobe with another missed three and another bad turnover. Is this the twilight zone?

  48. And Kobe can’t get around Gallinari?

  49. trade kobe…for all his might, very stupid player. this what separate jordan from him! im not even a jordan fan.

  50. This team should never taken more than 15 3 point attempts in a game with as many weapons as they have down low.

  51. kobe is going to have to take ALL the responsibility for this loss

  52. This is a Nuggets tweet: #Nuggets continue to double Kobe Bryant on perimeter. Assistant Melvin Hunt: “He doesn’t want to pass the ball!”

    Blame goes to Kobe for this game, one of his more forgettable as a Laker

  53. Your fault #24 we lost this game. Period!

  54. WOW.Great coaching Brown.
    Sitting the tallest player before a posible rebound and allowing Kobe and Metta shoot terrible jumpers.
    Just brilliant man¡

  55. I don’t think I could miss 22 shots even if I tried…haha. Wow kobe

  56. Trading Kobe now thats just stupid. But this is a loss i’m happy with because hopefully it’ll teach Kobe a lesson.

  57. So Kobe, do you think we should be 6-0 right now? Haha. Yeah right!

  58. Big Deal. Kobe’s had off nights before. To me From the first game, he just plain looks uncomfortable in this offense. He’s not getting the shots he normally would get in the triangle. He’s playing a strange game tonight.

  59. This game has to be an ego check for Kobe

  60. Just came to say an old saying we had around here a couple of seasons ago… Live by the Kobe. Die by the Kobe. (we’ll be alright. Kobe won’t shoot this bad the rest of the season.)

  61. Maybe Kobe has something on his mind. He is almost divorced and in Colorado….haha

  62. Kobe may be shutting his own window of opportunity to win another ring. A couple more games like this and this team will quit on him. Wow!

  63. Last year, when Bynum mentioned an expanded role, Kobe said that Bynum would have to learn the “pecking order” or words to that effect.

    After Coach Brown expanded Bynum’s role, yesterday, apparently Kobe decided to remind everyone of the pecking order tonight. After Bynum converted that three point play late in the third to tie it up, he hardly touched the ball again. I am a huge kobe fan, but tonight was one of the most shameful performances I have ever seen from him in his entire career.

  64. I just caught the end of the game and it reminded me of last year. Poor offensive execution down the stretch, too much Kobe and poor shot selection along with not getting the big defensive stop. Frustrating.

  65. I beleive this will put us in a solid last place in 3 pt %

    As for Kobe, yes very bad game, however, we can’t win without him being the feature player so he must keep firing.

  66. Small sample size. Things will get better, not worse. As Spiderman said on Family Guy, “Everybody gets one.”

  67. This is one night when the long-time anti-Kobe narrative is on the money. I have stuck up for him a lot; not tonight, though. I am sure I am not the only one flashing on the “Drew is going to have fall in line” comment he made.

    This game looked like a schedule loss, but it was winable if they had gone to Bynum and Gasol more and Kobe had not jacked up 8 3s, hitting 1.

    Not a fan of sitting Ebanks the entire game.

  68. robinred–spot on–Drew has to learn his place I guess….maybe that’s the “trust issue” Drew was talking about last year…Kobe has to trust the big men to get it done

  69. Early test for Mike Brown – what does he say to Kobe after this game. It’s games like these that I can understand why Shaq would get so frustrated. Bynum and Gasol are having good games inside yet Kobe shoots more than them combined. I wonder if he was trying to show Bynum that he’s still the #1 option. Oh well, this is when Brown is going to start earning his money.

  70. For the 2nd night in a row, Jelly Bean’s Son has stunk it up in regards to shooting … Coach Brown should have sat his ass tonight. Not neccessarily for the missed jumpers (everyone is entitled to an off night), but also for the fact that @ least 3 times tonight he failed to get back on D after missing those long jumpers. No excuse for that.

  71. Happy New Year robinred

    2011 was not good for the Lakers – let’s hope 2012 is better. And i do mean “12”

  72. Agreed, Robinred. I, too, have defended Kobe over the years. I have no problem with him having an off night, but 28 shots and eight 3 pointers? There was no reason for it.

    I know people are going to say it is just one game, etc. But this team needs chemistry and energy to succeed. Kobe may kill it. I am curious to see how he responds in the next couple of games.

  73. That “pecking order” thing came back to bite Kobe in the behind tonight.

  74. Lakers will not fall into last in 3 PT% just yet. Grizzles and Hornets are worse in 3 PT % and all three teams had terrible nights from the Three.

  75. That was hard to about a pump fake, a drive, and a pass inside instead of casting up another 23 footer? Holy cow, not a way to build T-E-A M…

  76. nothing could teach kobe a lesson, he nearly cause us the ring during game 7 vs boston championship!

  77. Remember that Kobe is playing with a bad wrist on his shooting hand, he needs to know when it is effecting his shot like tonight, and turn into the great distributer that he can be, it was not just him missing J’s, the whole team is to blame also. Yeah, this NBA schedule this year really sucks, as far as being able to watch quality basketball from teams.

  78. this was a bad loss for the lakers no matter how you look at it. Yes it was a back to back in denver of all places(denver pretty much never loses in theses situations). But with Kobe’s bad night and the inability to make a 3 pointer the lakers found themselves up by 3 with 3:44 left to go in the but Kobe decided he was going to be a hero and were outscored 14-3 the rest of the way.

    Kobe had six turnovers but every time he decided to take a terrible shot against gallinari and gallinari leaked out, it might as well be counted as a turnover. Which would bring kobe to 9 or 10 for the game. I’m really interested in seeing how Mike Brown reacts to this game and how kobe responds if Brown calls him out.

    One more thing. Kobe has just been terrible from behind the arc this season. Why doesn’t he just stop shooting 3’s. Lebron has taken 1 3-pointer all season. Kobe has taken 26 with a messed up wrist?That is just ridiculous. If kobe continue’s this, the lakers will be in trouble big time.

    The recap should just be about Kobe. Gasol 20 and 11, Bynum 18 and 16, and 30 bench points. I know there are things the team could’ve done better, but there isn’t much the team could’ve done to overcome Kobe tonight.

  79. I am a big fan of Kobe, but tonight the Lakers played against 13 suited Nuggets and one Kobe Bean Bryant.

    I was at the game yesterday and Kobe did not appear to be happy after the win. Particularly, when Bynum was the postgame interviewee and not he. This season the worst scenario possible was for Bynum to be suspended at the start of this season, and for Kobe to think, that he was going to have to play in hero mode.

    Kobe definitely appears to be unable and unwilling to relinquish the baton. He is his own worst enemy: He started the pre-season with bounce in his step, something many thought was gone forever. Then against the Clippers, and Los Angeles’ new stars, Griffin and CP3 he decides to drive to the hole for a dunk and got put on his butt; thus irreparably hurting his wrist. He is not super-human and must realize his basketball mortality by adjusting his game to fit the injuries, and by picking and choosing where and when to shoot the ball.

    Tonight was not one of the times that the Lakers needed Kobe to shoot incessantly from long distance. Tonight was the time that the Lakers needed Kobe to take a step forward in his career, by allowing Bynum to be the star in order to get the win. One cannot consistently claim that they are all about the win, when the player that is proclaimed to be the future is hot. When in fact that person is possessed with the green-eyed basketball demon.

    Kobe will not allow Bynum to be the man, maybe due to his and Bynum’s relationship 2-3 summers ago when Kobe advocated the trade of Bynum. Or maybe there is a correlation to Kobe suggesting last season that Bynum needed to know the pecking order of the offense. But, whatever the cause Kobe does not appear to want Bynum to be successful with the Lakers.

    If Kobe is indeed about ‘winning’ then he never would have shot the ball these last two games 12-48 on old legs that are playing 6 games in 8 nights. He must know his limitations.

    Unfortunately, Kobe is fighting the loss of stardom in his town and in his gym by the Clippers. Couple that with losing stardom on his own team and these last two games are the aftermath.

    I hope Kobe accepts the fact that he cannot battle Father Time, and learns to cope more gracefully.

  80. I found myself saying early on that this game was going to be an L, and it was going to fall on Kobe, turned out I was correct as the game went on, the mantra was the same.
    then this morning I read the Times blog, first point “Kobe was a ball hog”… I wonder what the plane trip was like going home? does any other the players, (could only be Fish) ask, “what were you thinking”? Does Kobe apologize to the team? or just … crickets…?
    Blake was solid again, and I think Kapono can be an effective weapon, as with Josh and Murphy, these guys need more burn, the vets didn’t have the legs last night.
    and of course, why did they stop going to ‘Drew?