Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Darius Soriano —  April 13, 2012

Records: Lakers 37-22 (3rd in the West), Nuggets 32-26 (7th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (9th in the NBA), Nuggets 108.5 (3rd in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.6 (13th in the NBA), Nuggets 106.5 (23rd in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Ramon Sessions, Devin Ebanks, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nuggets: Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos
Injuries: Lakers: Kobe Bryant (out), Jordan Hill (out); Nuggets: Wilson Chandler (doubtful), Rudy Fernandez (out)

The Lakers Coming in: The Laker have won two in a row and seven of their last ten. Through that stretch they’ve provided their typical up and down play, but have been putting together enough winning performances to keep their hold on the Pacific Divsion lead and, with that, the 3rd seed in the West.

The most recent win, though, was one of their best of the year. The Spurs had been playing some of their best ball of the year but the Lakers went into their house, defended and rebounded like mad men, and controlled the contest from the outset. And they did it all without Kobe Bryant who missed his third straight game with a bad shin – which will keep him out tonight as well. Of course, the Spurs game was only one game but the ingredients that went into that win – ball movement on offense, effort and intensity on defense – are ones that can be used as the foundation for future success. It’s my hope that it happens.

The Nuggets Coming in: The Nuggets have won three of four and are looking to keep that momentum going as the playoffs near and they fight for a berth in the second season. They’re currently 7th in the West and need every win they can get to ensure they not only make the playoffs but earn a favorable seeding and match up.

This Nuggets team is different than the one the Lakers saw the last time they matched up, however. Nene has been traded to the Wizzards for JaVale McGee, and that move has dramatically changed their front court rotation. Starting in Nene’s place Kosta Koufos while rookie Kenneth Faried has nabbed the starting PF spot. McGee sees time as a back up but this front court shake up has led to solid results mostly because Faried (who’s nicknamed “the Manimal”) has shown so much promise. I’ll let David Thorpe explain further in his rookie rankings (where he current has Faried ranked #2):

Faried reminds me of Udonis Haslem when he was a rookie in that Faried is light and thin but ultra-tough and competitive. He’s proved to be even more athletic than I expected, routinely making plays above the rim on offense and defense while still being expert at the grimy plays. His next step, though, is understanding and anticipating the game. He needs to learn how to use his mind to sniff out an action before it happens, or know exactly where to move on offense so a teammate can earn a better shot or make an easier pass. Faried gets lost on defense in part because he moves so fast, so thinking while slowing down and reading the sets will actually help keep him in better position longer.

When you add Faried to what is still a very good roster, the Nuggets are able to match up well with most teams while imposing their style of play on their opponents. Their hope is that this translates to a post-season berth and success once there.

Nuggets Blogs: Head over to Roundball Mining Company for all your news and analysis on the Nuggs.

Keys to the game: With Nene now gone, the Nuggets have become a more extreme version of the team they once were. They no longer run much of their offense through the post and instead push the pace even more and depend on their wings to provide their offensive production.

This translates to the Lakers needing to focus even more on transition defense and in slowing down Denver’s slew of perimeter threats. And it all starts with Ty Lawson. One of the fastest guards in the league, Lawson will punish teams in transition by pushing the ball at every opportunity. He’ll first look to get to the rim for his own shot but is equally capable of setting up his teammates for good looks around the perimeter. Afflalo, Gallo, and Harrington are all capable of getting hot from behind the arc and all will need to be marked in transition when they run to the three point line.

In the half court, the Lakers are once again facing a P&R heavy team with PG’s that can hurt them in a variety of ways. I’ve mentioned Lawson’s speed and quickness, but he’s also an able shooter that can hit the three point shot when given room. The Lakers must contain him coming around the corner and rotate to shooters that will attempt to space the floor to give him driving lanes. The Lakers must also deal with Andre Miller at the point. He’s also a P&R threat but will try to do a lot of his damage from the post where he’s a strong and crafty player that can create his own shot while also picking out teammates when help comes. Dealing with Miller down low will be a challenge and it will be interesting to see if the Lakers put a bigger defender on him in the hopes of disrupting his post game.

The Lakers must also pay special attention to the trio of Gallo, Afflalo, and Harrington. The two former have been playing strong ball and are major threats from behind the arc. Afflalo is a marksman from the corner and has shown a comfort expanding his game to put the ball on the ground and attack when the closeout isn’t disciplined. Gallo is a true all-court threat that relies on his jumper to set up the rest of his game. He can attack off the dribble, work some from the post when a small defender is on him, and is a good passer too. As for Harrington, he has a torn meniscus but is playing through it and remains a threat from behind the arc. Earlier this year his ability to hit shots befuddled the Lakers and whoever guards him (Pau, McRoberts) will need to stick with him but should also test his ability to drive and not just let him shoot spot up J’s.

Offensively, without Kobe, the plan will again be to go into the post to Bynum and Gasol. Bynum has an advantage against Koufos and should be able to use his superior length and his power to get good shots should he work to earn position. Against McGee, Bynum should also be able to get good looks but against the taller, more athletic defender, Bynum will need to use his niftiness around the hoop. Counters, head fakes, and moves to the baseline where he uses the rim as protection should serve him well.

Gasol should also be able to do solid work against Faried. While the rookie is an explosive leaper with good length, he’s giving up several inches to Pau and that should mean work around the post can be executed more easily. If Pau can hit a few jumpers, he should then move to the left block against Faried and use his height advantage to get off his shot – especially his hook as that will be a harder shot to challenge.

The other key on offense will be ball movement. In the last two games, the ball has moved freely and it’s led to good looks from a variety of Lakers. Ron has benefitted most as he’s gotten the ball in rhythm and been able to explore more of his offensive game, working his mid-range and post game more often instead of just standing in the corner. Of course, a lot of this ball movement will be based off the play of Sessions. Ramon should be able to work the P&R, probe the defense, and work to get good shots for himself by penetrating the lane or using the space the D is sure to give him to shoot open jumpers. If Ramon can use his speed to penetrate the lane it should lead to nothing but good things for the Lakers.

Lastly, the Lakers will need to ensure the floor is balanced on offense in order to aid in their transition to defense. Denver plays at the 2nd fastest pace in the league and, as mentioned earlier, will push the ball every chance they get. If it doesn’t lead to lay ins and dunks, they’ll also run early offensive actions to get them into their sets quickly where they can get quality shots. The Lakers must defend against this on one end and then avoid getting caught up playing at such a quick pace on the other end. If they can do these things, their chances of winning go up dramatically.

The first game back from a road trip can often be a tricky one. The comforts of home can lead to a lack of focus in that first game so the Lakers must battle against this and bring the proper level of energy and effort. If they do, they can extend their streak to three straight.

Where you can watch: 7:30PM start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.Keys to game:


Darius Soriano

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106 responses to Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

  1. Responding to a couple of guys in the last thread:

    Bynum is 27/64 from the floor in the 3 games without Kobe.

    Pau is 33/70.

  2. bigcitysid: Since Sessions started FGA’s over 9 games Kobe has played. Bynum missed the Nets game.

    Kobe 20.5 (4 less than his season avg. Bynum has actually shot more attempts in a game than Kobe 3 times. Kobe’s 24 att and 28 att game were when Bynum was gone early so those wouldn;t be that high.)

    Bynum 13.3

    Pau 14.1

    Sessions 9.4

    Ron 9.7 ( Since Sessions started Ron has taken 3 more shots than his season avg.)

    I see nothing wrong with this distribution of shots. You saying Kobe should shoot less has happened. Kobe has changed his game all season to benefit the team.

  3. Over these last 3 games

    Ron has taken 32 shots to get 53 points

    Bynum has taken 64 shots to get 57 points

    Ron has taken 32 less shots and scored only 4 less points than Bynum. Think about that Ron scored 4 less points (53 points on 32 shots) on 32 less shots than Drew (57 points on 64 shots). Since Ron is producing at a much more efficient level than Bynum it would only be fair for Ron to get more shots than Drew tonight, but that’s not going to happen.

  4. rr/Kevin,
    That’s such a silly stat. I’m sorry. Those three teams had no center to guard Drew so they swarmed him like never before. Against Denver who have a quality Center I suspect we will see Bynum again with a very high FG percentage as he will face fewer triple teams. Let’s put stats in context. Bynum has struggled offensively (as every player in the history of the game) when facing triple teams. Denver has McGee… So they will try and guard him more one on one. And to say it has a lot to do with Kobe is also silly. Bynum played the Hornets a week ago with Kobe and they swarmed Bynum just the same at Staples. No NBA player can shoot well while being guarded by three players consistently.

  5. rr/Kevin,
    My mistake I forgot about Gortat. He is a very good Center. I was suprised to see the Suns double Bynum so much. That is the only game where I think it can be argued Bynum was doubled more because Kobe was out.

  6. Aaron: i hope refs give drew some calls tonight. he was mauled vs spurs and still was dominant.

  7. @Muddywood: (“You can rest on offense. You can NEVER rest on defense. And you haven’t played good defense until you get the ball with a turnover or a rebound.” That changed my basketball life.)
    Your coach was a wise man. Defense is a matter of inserting your will over the other team. Determining what your opponent can and cannot do offensively. Deciding how many good looks they’ll get at the basket. The three D’s of defense.

    Muddywood: (Andrew rests on defense because, mentally, his focus is on scoring. Defense is just something you have to do until you go shoot the ball.)

    Andrew could look at defense as: An opportunity for more offensive touches.

    Andrew loves playing at the Staples Center so look for him to have a monster game.

    Go Lakers!

  8. Bynum against NO in two previous games:


    Bynum against PHX in two previous games:


    It may or may not have anything to do with Kobe, but those are the numbers.

  9. Just wondering if anyone is taking Andrew’s ankle sprain under consideration over the last few games. He only missed one game but I have had a high ankle sprain like Andrew and trust me it takes more then a day to heal. He hasn’t had much lift since he hurt it. Even in the Spurs game he did most of the damage flat footed, relying on his incredible length.

    Andrew plays through pain. All you have to do is look at the Boston finals to realize he is a gamer. I think he needs to be cut some slack.

  10. i am surprised to see that the Bynum’s FG% was so much higher in the previous games vs NO and PHX, I guess it had to do with kobe, but it could be because of the small sample size……

  11. Okay I’m knocking on wood here. (A lot of wood!) How crazy is it that Bynum is having the best and Healthiest year of his career and DH12 is battling an injury?!

  12. Denver likes to cherry pick too many jump shots may lead to fast break points.

  13. Kevin,
    I dont think refs will adjust to the dimiannt Bynum till the pkayoffs when they actually soend time preparing.

    The eye test says its small sample size. He has looked as dominant as ever. More so now even. So maybe he is even better without Kobe? Haha.

    Michael H,
    I thought the same thing. I agree. He hasn’t been able to jump since that ankle sprain.

  14. the other Stephen April 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    it seems like a lot of games will be ending in blowouts tonight.

  15. Dwight Howard out with a herniated disk. Could miss the rest of the regular season.

  16. I do not like this game tonight. Fast breaking team who must win to stay in playoffs. Really need Kobe tonight. No way we get 26 from Metta again.

    Also Griz remaining games are stupid easy. They might not lose again. Stop those stupid wide open 3-pointers please.

  17. Aaron @13
    This quote by you is awesome-

    “The eye test says its small sample size. He has looked as dominant as ever. More so now even. So maybe he is even better without Kobe? Haha.”

    Now you are using the eye-test!? I thought that you were purely a stats guy? 😛

  18. Dwight Howard out with a herniated disk. Could miss the rest of the regular season.

    Wow! With that being said, aren’t we the Lucky ones ..

  19. 18/TRA: ORL still has games against UTA, DEN, and MEM. So, Howard’s injury could very well alter seeding out west.

  20. Tra,
    Haha. The irony. Sad though. But ironic. Bynum ends up being the best and most durable Center this year? What universe are we living in?

  21. No excuses for Bynum tonight he has to produce. Lakers need this win pressures on his shoulders.

  22. The bench has to produce tonight as the Nuggets can go 10 deep, anyone else cringe when Barnes shoots a three (even if he’s wide open)?

    I get that Brown is trying to keep the team’s rotation in rhythm by inserting Ebanks, but not a single minute for Goudelock even in a blowout? That’s cold…

  23. Interview with Artest in the last few days–Ron Ron stressed “tempo” and that is the name of the game tonight—-DEN plays fast—LAL needs to slow it down or it will be like the PHX game

  24. No Mike Brown tonight, left Staples Center shortly before tip off because of personal reason. John Kuester on the bench coaching the Lakers.

  25. , Lots of ball fumbling. Brown a no-show?

  26. World Peace!

  27. Sometimes stats can take you off into lala land if you are not careful to apply context to them. Even then without enough context many stats are totally useless.

    The Lakers need to control the ball and tempo against this team. Lazy passes and long rebounds will bite them in the butt with this Nuggets team. They need to continue getting the ball inside to their two bigs and work from there.

    I hope they can get up for a home against Denver the same way they got up for that roadie against SA.

  28. Ron Artest steal and SMASH

  29. Stop playin’ Ron .. Stop playin’

  30. MWP seemingly got good overnight. What back problems did he have?

    Loving it

  31. So if you didn’t notice… The Lakers welcomed three new players to the team at the all star break… 2004 Ron Artest (Ron Artest), 2000 Shaquille Oneal (Andrew Bynum), and 1993 Rod Srickland (Ramon Sessions).

  32. solid effort from lakers

  33. Keuster coaching is still a bit worrying, the Detroit players must’ve boycotted him for a reason…

  34. @ Aaron:

    1993 Rod Strickland
    I like that. Good comparison.

  35. WOW Matt Barnes SMASH

  36. drew picking apart the double team tonight

  37. Some really beautiful offensive ball from our guys right now. Anyone reminded of the pre-All Star break in 2010 where Kobe sat out a few games and the team gelled without him, getting some impressive wins at Utah and at freaking Portland?

  38. Tra,
    I’m full of insightful ideas 😉 The Lakers have five all stars right now when Kobe comes back.

  39. Kehntangibles – I was just making that same comparison to a friend yesterday. Hoping Kobe comes back all team-oriented and aware of his teammate’s strengths like he did back then.

    Good first quarter. Let’s keep it going against this deep Denver team.

  40. with the lakers executing better on offense, they are prepared to crash the glass and defend in transition.

  41. And… acceptably competent bench play. What madness is this?

  42. Okay if Ron keeps this up which I expect, if blake is turning the corner, Barnes stays steady and Sessions is solid. What’s the Lakers weakness?

  43. artest with the burst of speed(!) and he draws the foul.

  44. It’s been said plenty, but MWP is real spry out there and making a difference.

  45. where is ken at? remember metta mess? in all seriousness though what do you think about rons play?

  46. Remember a few months ago when it was reasonably asked on this board whether we had the worst offensive SF combo in the league?

  47. 11 to 0 run. Now I know why they revolted in Detroit. I am about to start one here.

  48. bench did a good job of maintaining the lead. too bad our closers let denver back in it.

  49. Wonder if he draws out the roll ball to other end play again?

  50. Kevin,
    Yea… If Artest really has had this awful lower back injury the last couple years…. He has shows he can play like this day in and day out. He has done this his entire career before coming to the Lakers. Watch out NBA

  51. matt barnes is officially out his slump

  52. Please enroll Bynum to “The school of being a Professional”.

  53. At least Andrew is consistent. 30 rebounds to 3. Also 4th game in a row under 40% shooting. Yes he needs Kobe on offense.

  54. Mods: double team is killing lakers rhythm may become a problem 2nd half. anyone know how to exploit it?

  55. Darius,
    I was wrong. I don’t say that often so enjoy it. I thought this was the first game Bynum wouldn’t be swarmed every second he was on offense. I was wrong. I forgot George Karl was the first coach to announce publicly Andrew Bynum was the best low post player on both sides of the ball in the entire league. I should have figured he would guard him like he was Wilt. Darius… The eye test says Bynum isn’t close to a Shaq… So as you said… Why do teams swarm him more than Shaq ever was?

  56. Bynum is playing black hole again. There was one play where four Denver players collapsed on Drew, and he still thought it was a good idea to take two dribbles and put up a highly contested shot from 8 feet. Contrary to some opines, he’s passed very poorly out of double teams today, a second late or making the wrong pass (often across court, preventing a re-posting).

  57. LOL-
    From the announcers-
    “Andrew Bynum sees more double teams when Kobe is not on the floor.”

    Now what does that mean? Kobe opens the floor up for Andrew and makes it easier for him to operate against a single defender which leads to…..a higher fg percentage!

    Is that not a universally accepted truth by everyone except Aaron? 😛

  58. @56 He shoot it because the shot clock was going down. Andrew is really frustrated right now that he can’t make his offense going because of the double and triple teams sent to him after he received the ball.

  59. Kevin

    Easy. Put Andrew out on 3 point line to shoot.

  60. @54 – Yes, move the ball when your doubled and don’t panic. And it’s the responsibility of the other four players to move into open spots where the man being doubled can find them.

  61. gallinari’s defensive assignment has to dive harder, if they are going to help off him all night.

  62. Ko: i’m sure drew wouldn’t mind that at all.

    faried is a monster out there. a mark madsen on steroids

  63. Aaron is a homer. Putting Bynum in the same sentence as Wilt, plueaze. Wilt is an all-time great. He averaged 50.4ppg in one season, Drew career high ppg. is 18. Wilt must be rolling over the grave right know with what Aaron said.

  64. Sessions needs to step his game up

  65. Aaron – I would guess more doubles for Drew than Shaq because other teams don’t respect our deep threats as much.

  66. Lakers score enough points(most of the time) but you have to stop the other guy more than he stops you.
    Andrew consistently being a beast on the boards and a defensive terror are the keys to the Lakers making any kind of title run.

  67. Peaaaace!

  68. Wow Mwp… He is just on fire.

  69. Once again, stop playin’ Ron, stop playin’ …

  70. AusPhil-
    That is definitely part of the reason. Another reason is that Shaq was unstoppable in a way that ‘Drew isn’t yet. He was also better at passing out of the double-team at a much earlier NBA age.

  71. that’s not gonna help Ebanks getting playing time when Kobe returns…

  72. I am very impressed with the way Lakers are playing tonight. Handling business

  73. This coach might make Brown look Jackson like. Nice 5 on the court there at tbe end. No guard on the court?

  74. too many Lakers turnovers 19 through 3 quarters.

  75. I don’t get why the rotation has Blake playing with Gasol instead of Sessions with Gasol. Sessions is a better PnR player… Blake can bring the ball up and dump it to Bynum easy enough.

  76. That was a crazy sequence. Pau probably should have gotten a charge call on that play. Then the Nuggets could have come down looking to get within 4. Game changer.

  77. Perhaps someone should tap Kuestor, or whatever his name is, the Lakers traded for a really fast point guard named Sessions.

  78. pau is such a weak sauce. my 90 yr old grandmother can rip the ball out of his hands with ease.

  79. Never thought I’d say this but put Blake back in. Sessions is off

    anon: lol. that was seriously funny

  80. Between the turnovers and offensive boards given up, I feel like I’ve seen this before.

  81. And the blown double digit lead again.

  82. wth is sessions doing out there

  83. Andrew is the worst I have ever seen on doubles. Terrible there Aaron and your eye ball test.

    You need a eye exam.

    If you guys are going to rely on Metta shooting and AB throwing up junk you are dreaming.

  84. ball don’t lie.

  85. I’m very happy with our SFs.

  86. Matt Barnes is having a good game and has made some big baskets tonight.

  87. I’m so giddy right now watching Barnes and Mwp play. This is awesome! We shored up our pg position and then our 3s start playing like this!?

  88. That’s the guy Barnes!

    Won this big game. Huge with games twice aganist angry Spurs twice and OKC coming up.

    Matt the man!

  89. Anonymous,
    I’ll let Darius respond to your ludicrous statement. I have a policy of not responding to things my grandma can see is wrong.

  90. Terrible game by sessions tonight

  91. Barnes always get boards. 10 again.

    Lakers won without Brown and Kobe against a playoff team. Extra kudos

  92. Matt Barnes with his Lakers high for a game, 24 points

  93. Ugly win—but in some ways more impressive than the SAS victory. Close game, no Kobe, someone had to step up—and everyone made a contribution down the stretch.

    @ Aaron–There is no dispute–for this game at least, Bynum was not good at passing out of the double teams. He had one nice look in the first half to set up Murphy, but that was about it.

  94. bynum is awful on double teams…hes 2 seconds plus late on trying to pass…shouldnt be spinning baseline…pass out and repost man

  95. Aaron..both anonymous are different people. Get it right. Even my grandma knows this. 😉

  96. Aaron,

    I think you’re the only one who is (willfully) unaware of the trouble that Bynum had tonight with double teams. He made the right play a few times, but he also had quite a few turnovers and missed shots because of poor decision making. Sure he shot the rock well, but he probably had 2 FGAs that had no business going up. Some of his passes out of doubles came so late that it forced bad plays elsewhere on the court.

    Bynum had a great game in spite of his work when doubled, it’s okay to admit. And in the interest of fairness, Pau was also a walking disaster when he saw any sort of pressure from a second defender.

  97. Pau needs to rest two or three games
    He looks very tired

  98. Sessions look bad tonight, he can even penetrate because the Nuggets players were tall and athletic to guard the lane. Maybe an off night but other players step up tonight. Move to the next one, the Mavs.

  99. Even my grandma saw Bynum having trouble with the double teams and she’s legally blind.

  100. With the win tonight against the Denver Nuggets the Lakers clinched a playoff spot.

    Time to get Pau Gasol some rest and reduce his minutes by a couple a game .

  101. Andrew got outrebounded by Matt Barnes.
    A good coach or a veteran player would point that out to him.

    Or maybe Mike Brown can work Andrew a deal where he gets to shoot a legit three for every 15 boards he gets it a game. That might work.

  102. matt barnes was -8!

  103. Pau needs to rest two or three games, he looks very tired.

  104. Kareem,
    He has the ball more than most PGs. If he makes a double team pay 90 percent of the time that means 7 times the defense wins during the course of a game. He is destroying double teams.

  105. Aaron-
    You are just pulling numbers out of thin air. Bynum does not destroy double teams, but he is doing fairly well… As long as he keeps getting 5 or 6 easy buckets off of lobs or drop-offs and putbacks you will see his FG% above 50%.

    He didn’t focus enough energy on defense tonight as he did against the Spurs and it showed.

  106. Aaron,
    What game were you watching? Old highlights of the shaq years on espn classic and mistakenly thought shaq was Bynum?