Game 6 Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Darius Soriano —  May 10, 2012

It had to end this way.

After 35 years, Thursday night will bring to a close the 35-year relationship between KCAL-9, the Lakers and legions of Laker fans. Three and a half glorious decades that grounded us all in at least one shared experience. Regardless of age, income or ethnicity, if you’re a sports fan that has resided amid the urban sprawl of Los Angeles at any point in the last three and a half decades, KCAL (or KHJ when I discovered it) has touched your life. For anyone whose introduction came at least 10 years ago, it’s where you met Chick.

Forever the voice of basketball in Los Angeles, Chick Hearn, the Lakers’ play-by-play man (this title, while accurate, seems insultingly simple) for 37 years until his passing in 2002, anchored the simulcast on channel 9 for the last quarter century of his legendary career. Initially flanked on the mic by Pat Riley, later Keith Erickson andfinally the great Stu Lantz, Chick invited us along on everyLaker road trip, never failing to mention the huge dinners Magic’s mother would prepare when the team visited Detroit or that despite growing up in the shadow of the Forum in Inglewood, every trip to Phoenix carried added meaning for Arizona State alum Byron Scott. Not once did he fail to thank producer Susan Stratton or statistician Jimmy Pells.

It’s where I was introduced to Chick’s most famous appliance and learned the game of basketball from as great a professor as one would dare hope for. My family moved to the United States when I was four years of age –the “Lakers on 9” are due as much credit as any teacher for my rapid grasp of the English language. And, in the seven years since my departure from Southern California, Chick’ssuccessors (though never replacements) Paul Sunderland, Joel Meyers and Bill MacDonald kept me in touch with hometown I’d left behind.

Win or lose, tonight is the last-ever Laker telecast on KCAL-9. It was a hell of a run.

Whew! A bit dusty in here, no? Let’s get to the game at hand.

Despite Kobe Bryant’s best efforts, a lackluster Game 5 effort from the Lakers Tuesday night in Los Angeles has this returned this series to Denver for a vital Game 6. Despite committing just 9 turnovers and holding a decided edge on the offensive glass (15, v. 8 for Denver) and from beyond the 3-point line (9-of-24, v. 3-of-19 for Denver), the Lakers simply lacked the energy and quality (just 38.9% from the field; 21-of-58, or 36.2% excluding Kobe Bryant) to slam the door on George Karl’s crew.

Tonight the Lakers will take the floor before one of the NBA’s best home crowds –one sure to be frothing at the thought of sending them home for a do-or-die Game 7 in what could be their Nuggets’ final home game of the season. Now more than ever, it is critical that the Lakers – especially, but by no means only, Andrew Bynum – maximize their effort from the opening tip, as they will likely have to weather an early Nuggets barrage. Once the opening onslaught has passed and the teams are simply playing a basketball game, it will be vital for the Lakers to dictate the tempo. On the offensive end they must look to establish the league’s best post-up tandem early and often. As they have all season, Bynum (whose 16 and 11 deflects attention from a listless effort which resulted in his domination by JaVale McGee) and Pau Gasol (who had an awful 9 points on 4-of-11 shooting, with 10 rebounds) represent this team’s greatest mismatch and must be utilized as so. The Nuggets have used a sagging defense to neutralize them too often, but that must change tonight.

Especially with Kobe Bryant under the weather. Yes, Kobe will have the opportunity to put forth his own “flu game” – though of the stomach variety – and while we’d all appreciate an addition to the legend of Kobe Bryant, this may be a game where it’s his teammates that must lift him up rather than he putting them on his back. On offense, must feed the post. Sessions MUST raise his game & facilitate & Drew/Pau must get in the paint, fight for position and attack aggressively.

We say this all the time, but is particularly vital tonight, as it will allow Kobe to pace himself and have something in the tank down the stretch. On a side note, executed properly, this could result in the Lakers not even needing Kobe down the stretch, as the potential for dominance and Nugs’ foul trouble could lay the foundation for a comfortable win. This is the hope, but of course far from assured. But, the point remains, Kobe will not be 100% physically but his mates will be. The Lakers big men can carry them to a win should they do the work that’s needed of them. Ramon Sessions can add to this equation by attacking more off the bounce and forcing himself into the creases of the D. The Nuggets will be there to challenge him – especially JaVale McGee – but those forays into the teeth of the defense will only help to create opportunities for the Lakers bigs to mimic what their counterparts have done so well this series; to be garbage men that clean up and impact the game on the way.

The environment will be hostile. An insane crowd will only serve to energize the home team and inspire them (as if they needed any more in an elimination game) to bring their best effort. But the Lakers cannot wilt in the face of this. They must put a body on JaVale and Faried. They CANNOT allow Andre Miller to dominate/dictate tempo. They must match effort and energy with their own while also bringing precision and discipline. Game 5 is the exact opposite of what the Lakers need. Instead, they should look to the last time they were in this building; they must look to game 4 where they won by playing smart, (mostly) focused basketball. The blueprint is there for them to follow, they just have to do it.

The Lakers will play on Saturday. They’ll either do so at Staples Center in a game 7 where anything can happen or do so in Oklahoma City for game 1 of the second round. I don’t know about you, but the latter sounds much better to me.

– Emile Avanessian (with some help from Darius)

 


Darius Soriano

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231 responses to Game 6 Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

  1. Kobe 13 – 23

    rest of the team 18 – 55

    Nobody is able to match Kobe’s intensity. Kobe, Barnes, Hill, Blake, Sessions have played hard all 6 games.

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  2. Also, why is Ebank getting so few minutes? He seems to be able to contribute, at least on hustle and defense. Those are two things that are definitely lacking right now.

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  3. Sorry but there has never been a BIG 3! It’s all smoke & mirrors, there is only Kobe and a bunch of average guys… ALL OF THEM!! slow guys, scared guys, poor character guys, poor shooters, mr. potatohead as the coach…

    WAKE UP BUSS!!! This is it for this team!

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  4. I don’t think I have enough beer in my house for tonight. And I have 5gal of homemade beer.

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  5. Too many Lakers haters on this site posing as Lakers fans.

    It’s a frustrating night, but Gasol (two rings – major part in both) doesn’t deserve the antagonism.

    All of the usual Kobe dissers, clearly have no appreciation for five rings earned on two different units; on the most singularly focused, dedicated player since MJ.

    Bynum’s been a disappointment in this series, but by far his best season, and a clear factor in winning a ring in 2010.

    Sessions is a good player, and a definite improvement on what we had. Too early to say if he’s a long term starter. What better was available?

    Brown’s a bum because he’s tasked to replace a legend and the triangle with no training camp?

    If this series shows anything, it’s that the Lakers are a poor shooting team, which we knew, right?

    When you can double our bigs and play up-tempo, the inability to make the opposition pay…has already been covered on this site.

    I just don’t understand how so-called fans can have so much animus for their team.

    We’ve been blessed to win a lot of rings over the years. This aint the Washington Generals.

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  6. Kobe is not happy, and deservedly so. Already said multiple times, but he was the only real Laker to show up. He even had an excuse to play poorly but he didn’t and never gave up.

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  7. wow, blown out. and we have not won any blow out like this. quite embarrassing.
    however, we will go home, still looks good for us.

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  8. Denver confidence is sky high no reason they go to LA thinking they can’t win.

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  9. @207

    I couldn’t agree more on you.

    Get ready for Game 7, MWP back. We need his energy and defense…

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  10. Mark Sigal,

    Lot of good points, but it is OK for people to express frustration–that is is a function of team-based blogs: fans can vent and comisserate. Darius will, and has, delete stuff that crosses the line.

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  11. hilarious that people are upset and seem to be surprised that the coach-less Lakers would lay an egg on the road in a close out game. anyone who watched more than a few games this season would know that Mr. Potato Head has no business coaching an NBA team, much less the Lakers. I thought Karl was his equal in sheer stupidity, but I was wrong. low-IQ MB is no match for even the worthless Karl. good thing the FO hired a defensive minded coach (rolls eyes).

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  12. So much pressure for Kobe to produce game 7 because he knows what he’s going to get from his teammates. The same thing he has been getting next to nothing.

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  13. @Mark Sigal: I agree with some of what you’re saying, but this is the playoffs. I always expect players to play their butts off when it comes playoff time. I just didn’t see that from Bynum, Pau, or even most of the team outside of Kobe. I want to see them succeed, but when they don’t try very hard at it, that’s just not something that sits right with me.

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  14. Mark,

    You are wasting your time with the crowd. They think the Lakers are supposed to blow every team out by 20 points and win the title every year. Many here are shinning examples of the delusional Laker fan stereotype.

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  15. @214

    I’m also frustrated in this game but I’ll keep my composure for a little bit because I understand the situation right now.

    There is still hope in Game 7 but if we loss, there is nothing to be ashamed of. For all we’ve gone this year, I’m happy for it. Just put your shoes on Mike Browns position. No training camp, new players, system, staffs, no chemistry.

    No team is perfect. If we let our frustration play we are like Andrew Bynum also. Letting our frustration instead of focusing into the game…

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  16. @rr, totally agreed. I am not suggesting otherwise. I learn a ton from the serious analysis that takes place among both the writers and great commenters on Forum Blue and Gold, so wouldn’t have it any other way.

    It’s just mind-numbing to hear the “bum” references or those commenters who make the exact same point over and over and over. We get it. You don’t like…

    Sorry for the rant. I love the Lakers, and hope they can figure some things out by Saturday.

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  17. Lawson, Miller, Afflalo, McGee, Gallo, Faried, Harrington, Mosgov

    Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Barnes, Sessions, Hill, Blake, Ebanks

    None of Denver’s best 8 are elite. Lakers have 3 elite players.

    Then you ask yourself who is the better coach? The answer to this question is the reason it’s 3-3. Not the roster.

    No adjustments are being made on Lakers end.

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  18. 2 years in a row with completely embarrassing performances in the playoffs.

    Pau hasn’t had it these last two games. Being the only big sprinting back on Defense every play eliminates his strength – offensive rebounding – and wears him out in the post.

    But he doesn’t have another option unless its him and Hill because he’s the pressure release big.

    By running – the nuggets have taken away any effectiveness from Pau. And by doubling, the nuggets have taken away any reason to have Bynum on the court.

    The Lakers are playing scared and its dumb. They take way too long to set up their offense, and its making it so ridiculously easy for Denver to set up their zone. Andre Miller wasn’t even guarding a guard on the perimeter tonight.

    They have to stop being scared of Denver running, and they have to play their own game. So what if Denver gets a few fast break points if your 2 bigs are no longer completely mitigated. If Pau and Bynum crash the boards and get the extra possessions, the nuggets will leak out less. Set up the possessions quicker and stop trying the dumb double touch into the post.

    If the post is doubled off you – you are a wide open shooter. Take. The. Shot.

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  19. Funky Chicken May 10, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    T Rogers, wow, that’s a lot of hyperbole. In fact, some of us have o expectation at all that the Lakers should win the title every year. There are at last three better teams in the league than the Lakers (4 if the Bulls were healthy), so I have no expectations of winning it all this year.

    However, what I do expect is that $34 million worth of big men to show up on time, ready to play, and play hard in every single playoff game. They didn’t come close to that, so I harshly criticize them. For that, I am a delusional Lakef fan?

    There is a common theme here with some of our more sensitive brethren: any criticism = hate. That is a B.S. analysis.

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  20. @vhanz, i dont’t know about you but personally I would be ashamed of losing to a 6th seed when up 3-1 with homecourt advantage and a healthy roster…

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  21. I wonder who us laughing harder?

    Fish

    Phil

    Hodges

    Barkley

    Karl

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  22. Has Bynum’s lack of interest come from his inability to get his O going? Surely the coaching staff can make adjustment or teach him how to better deal with double teams.

    As for Pau, his disinterest is mystifying. Such a talented player and yet…

    Kobe today, wow, looked like he wanted to vomit and yet kept getting it done.

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  23. look at bynum on TNT he doesn’t give a $H!t

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  24. Funky Chicken May 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    And for the record, Andrew Bynum should be fined, significantly, for his on-bench behavior. He is the antithesis of a leader. Separating yourself from your teammates is quitting. Quitting ought to result in a fine.

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  25. Great comments by Kenny Smith about the shot of Bynum looking checked out and separate from the team.

    Smith said that when you have been making the emotional investment over the entire season, and get to these moments, you can make the emotional withdrawal needed to rise to the occasion.

    Smith said that because Bynum hasn’t made the emotional investment there’s nothing to withdraw in these moments, and that he personally wouldn’t want to play with someone like that.

    Pretty harsh, but way valid, IMHO.

    P.s. thanks for the comments, Eidos and T. Rogers. Praying this is like Lakers-Rockets in 2009. That series had a similar disconcerting vibe, and played out okay for us.

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  26. Well, MWP should hopefully be a big boost. It would at least allow Kobe to take Miller or whoever else all game if needed. The couple of times I saw him on Miller, Kobe seemed to be fairly effective on him. MWP can also shut down Gallinari, since he’s strong and quick enough to take him. Lawson can be a big problem, but I guess that’ll take a team defense to prevent him from exploding. Still, at worst, if the Lakers are able to contain the rest of the team, they may simply bite the bullet and let Lawson do his thing.

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  27. I feel pretty zen about Game 7, if they can’t finish off a Game 7 at home, they don’t deserve it anyway. Pretty much the same feeling I had vs. the Rockets in 2009, Portland in 2000, to the lesser extent Sacramento in 2002.

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  28. There is a huge issue between Brown and Bynum. That much is clear by Bynum’s attitude. Who will win that battle of wills?

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  29. Nice lead-in with the channel 9 shout out to the game preview. My first initial memories of the Lakers were of those road telecasts. My Mom would not spring for cable until I was in high school in the 90’s, so we listened on radio to the home games. Either way, it was all Chick, all the time.

    And he would be embarrassed by the disgrace that has been the last 8 quarters.

    This situation starts and ends with effort. I don’t want to hear about roster construction (no backup SG, no pure shooter, no PG at all until Sessions showed up), Coach Brown’s missteps, horns formations, or anything else. The last 8 quarters have been about effort. The harder working team has won the last two games. Period. On Tuesday they were hard-working. Tonight, they were hard working, hot shooting, and at home. That adds up to the rout we saw tonight.

    Effort. Pau and Andrew have been pathetically deficient in this category for 8 quarters, and there’s no point in talking about strategy if the effort’s not going to be there. I’m sick of watching Faried triple the energy of Pau in terms of crashing the boards and boxing out. Pau and Andrew have been happy to gobble up the “we’re 7 feet tall rebounds” but have shown virtually no interest in the “I’m Kenneth Faried and my motor never stops” rebounds. When was the last time either of our two bigs played for even 2 minutes with that kind of relentless intensity? Playing hard fixes SO many things.

    Kobe was magnificent, with 31 points in 37 minutes on very efficient shooting. Yes, he had some bad turnovers, but given that it was obvious he was on the verge of vomiting the entire night, he was awesome. Games like this are why he has trouble putting his team’s fate in the hands of others. Our 14 feet of skilled size played soft, slow, and poorly. How many times did either SPRINT down the floor to get early position? How many times did they finish THROUGH contact? Effort, effort, effort.

    Denver went nuclear from three, but the game was in hand at the half. then the Lakers went spectator in the 3rd, and the lights were out. The advantage of being Andrew Bynum is that if you pound and pound for post position ALL GAME LONG, you earn foul shots and by the fourth, you break spirits and gobble up points and rebounds. If you decide to assert yourself on the blocks only one out of every three possessions, you cede your advantage. Take into account your teammates’ inability to get you the ball even when you work, and now you’re talking about long stretches of the game where you simply don’t matter.

    Pau cannot escape criticism either. He is never going to show up one day as a ferocious and physical player, but his skills and IQ dictate that if he shows the mettle he’s shown before, those two attributes help swing games. He made numerous half-hearted attempts at loose balls, and on the block seemed content to be pushed wherever his defender wanted to take him.

    Now it’s Game 7. I am already cringing at tomorrow’s Plaschke column, and the unreleasable frustration and angst I’m going to have to wade through for the next 44 hours. We get World Peace back. The Lakers should not have needed a move like that to win this series. It should NEVER have come to this.

    Effort. Now the problem is, in a Game 7, effort might not be enough.

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  30. Just a pathetic game from the Lakers.
    Here is my player breakdown for the last 2 games

    Kobe = best player on the floor
    Pau = weak
    Bynum = lazy, slow and unmotivated
    Sessions = terrible defense, tentative shooter even when wide open
    Ebanks = avg bench player
    Barnes = tough defender and always brings effort and energy
    Blake = afraid to shoot even when open. Terrible defender.
    Hill = avg bench player. Hustles, rebounds and plays good D but not much more.

    Now for the Nuggets
    Lawson = shot out of his mind. always hustles and pushes the pace
    Alfalo = Always hustles, plays tough D
    Galinari = Good scorer when his jumper is falling, plays with heart
    Faried = Most energy on the court. Crafty defender. Good rebounder. Always hustles
    Mozgov = solid center. Would be a really good back up center. Gives good effort
    A.Miller = Nuggets best post up player. Absolutely abuses our guards. Always plays with effort
    Brewer = plays with energy and effort. Good defender. Always hustles down the floor.
    McGee = Nuggets x-factor. Consistently beats Andrew and Pau down the floor.
    Harrington = One legged jump shooter. but plays hard and hustles.

    Do we see a pattern here?

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  31. @221

    Man, its embarrasing what happened last year. So whats the point?…16 banners hanging on Staples, and we loss this one game and get ashamed of this?…

    Think men, last years sweep was the most embarrasing to me.

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