Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

Darius Soriano —  December 26, 2012

Records: Lakers 14-14 (10th in the West), Nuggets 15-14 (8th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.2 (6th in the NBA), Nuggets 104.7 (9th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.0 (15th in the NBA), Nuggets 103.0 (18th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Darius Morris, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Nuggets: Ty Lawson, Andrew Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake (out); Nuggets: Wilson Chandler (out)

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have won 5 games in a row, the last two with Steve Nash back quarterbacking the offense. Nash’s return has marked a more diversified offensive attack with his skill set directly correlating to more variety in the sets the Lakers are running in the half court. Of course we’ve seen Nash play in the P&R, his talent on full display as he’s able to pass, shoot, occupy defenders and take on double teams all while making the right read. Several possessions have ended with Nash making brilliant pass/shot decisions and two points (at least) going up on the scoreboard. The Lakers are also deploying Nash as a screener in their HORNS sets, with his ability to move off ball and still be a threat acting as a catalyst for these actions. The old saying is that the player who is most open after a screen is the man that sets it, and defenses are treating Nash as such, reacting to his movements after setting picks while the man he screens for breaks open. The combination of the Lakers’ HORNS sets and Nash maneuvering in the P&R has made a difference in the crispness of their sets and in their late game execution in general. There’s a reason many said Nash coming back would make a difference, and down the stretch of the team’s most recent two games were a perfect example of that.

Of course, Nash being back isn’t the only reason the Lakers are playing better. Their defensive intensity is picking up and being put on display for longer stretches. With the Lakers shifting to more sets with both bigs at the high post, Gasol has been more involved as a passer and that’s opening up the team’s offense even further. Ron has been a beasting off the bench and has proven to be a match up problems for back up bigs on the perimeter and opposing wings in the post.

The team still has improving to do and that will take time. Strides must be made on both sides of the ball in the form of chemistry and synergy and that will come (hopefully) through practice time and togetherness. There are general roster issues in terms of depth and injuries that need to be sorted out or worked through. But this team is showing more confidence, a grittiness, and fighting spirit that is nice to see. If that continues, they can win some much needed games in the meantime while some of the above concerns get sorted out.

The Nuggets Coming in: The Nuggets have won 3 of their last 5 games and are holding on to the 8th seed in a crowded western conference. They seem to win their games solely on the will to continue to attack while wearing down their opponents via their waves of effective players. The Nuggs play a 9 man rotation and it seems all of them have been told to play fast and to attack the paint with reckless abandon.

Of course, the team’s attack mentality is also born of the fact that they have been a mysteriously poor outside shooting team. With Ty Lawson and Gallo on the perimeter, it’s actually Corey Brewer who leads the team in 3 point FG% (at least of regular rotation players), a fact that no one would have believed if you’d told them it would happen before the season. This lack of shooting has led defenses to crowd the paint and force the Nuggets to hit shots, or risk forcing the ball into the teeth of the D to make something positive happen. Too often the team settles for the latter (or hesitates on the former) and it leads to a clunky attack that is easy to defend.

Overall, the Nuggs are still a fine team that is finding its identity. But much like the Lakers, they have some real roster issues that keep them from reaching their perceived ceiling. Until they can sort out how to effectively space the floor, they will be an up and down offensive team with a defense that isn’t doing enough to get them more wins.

Nuggets Blogs: Roundball Mining Company is a great place for all your Nuggets news and analysis. Give them a read.

Keys to game: For years, when the Lakers have traveled to Denver to play the Nuggets on the 2nd night of a back to back, it’s been trouble. Flying into Denver, landing late night (or early morning) and then playing a fast paced Nuggets team at altitude has simply been a recipe for disaster. Few teams coming from the pacific time zone ever get that win and a game under those circumstances has long been considered a “schedule loss”.

Tonight, however, both the Lakers and Nuggets are operating under those same circumstances. After the Lakers dispatched the Knicks at Staples Center mid-day, the Clippers beat the Nuggets last night in the same building. So, it’s difficult to say which team has the advantage after having to play in Los Angeles yesterday. You’d think the Nuggets, playing at home, have the edge. It will be interesting to see if that is true, though, and whether both teams show some tired legs after playing tough games on Christmas Day.

Aside from the travel and the result it has on the players, there are some other things to watch for tonight. As noted above, the Lakers must continue to show a diversified offensive attack. Denver has good defensive players on the wing to throw at Kobe in Iggy and Gallo, so moving him around off the ball is the best strategy. If Kobe plays too much in isolation, he’ll not only allow a top defender to dig in against him but also the rest of Denver’s defense to gear up and slow him down. No, the Lakers are best served running actions for Kobe off the ball and utilizing Nash in the P&R or post ups for Dwight (who has a favorable match up against Koufos) or Gasol (who has a good height advantage over Faried) for sustainable offense.

Defensively, there may not be a more important factor than getting back in transition. Denver wants to run and they want to get baskets at the rim. They will push the ball off the dribble but also love to throw the ball ahead to streaking wings who know how to finish in the paint. Denver also has bigs who love to run (Faried and McGee specifically) so Pau, Howard, Hill, and Ron must be ready to change ends quickly, using good judgement on when to crash the offensive glass and when to retreat defensively. This game can be lost in transition so the Lakers must be careful.

The Lakers must also be attentive on their defensive back boards. The Nuggets are 2nd in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage, working over opponents on the glass to extend possessions. Faried (3.9), McGee (2.2), and Koufos (2.3) combine for over 8 ORebs a game and they must all be marked on the glass. Key will be the Lakers helping the helper on D with the wings dropping down to cover for big men who step up to help wall off dribble penetration. Kobe, Morris, Meeks, and Ron will all need to help on the glass first and worry about the three point line second. Make the Nuggets beat you from the outside, don’t allow them to get easy baskets off put backs or extend possessions so they can attack the paint again (where they can expose the Lakers’ bigs to fouls or get points at the rim).

The Lakers would love to get their 6th straight win and continue their momentum tonight. But it will take sustained effort on both ends and a discipline to not settle for easy shots nor give up on making the extra rotation. If the team plays up to their recent standard, they’ll be right there at the end with the game right there for the taking. Let’s hope they have it in them.

Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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139 responses to Preview and Chat: The Denver Nuggets

  1. Having some big worries about this game. We blew the Nuggets out last time we played them, but that was largely in part due to insane contributions from both Jamison (who is no longer in the rotation) and Meeks. Looking back at the box score of that game, I’m not so convinced we could have so easily won that without those two. Really hope we can keep the momentum going, it would be great to see Kobe outshine Iguodala and Ron/Pau/Nash continue great play. Also looking for Dwight to establish himself over Faried and the underrated Koufos. That said, Go Lakeshow! Ice the rest of the Christmas cake, and bring it home!

  2. May not mean much to some but if Lakers win they move ahead of Portland and Denver and can go into 7″th place. Promise you Kobe, Nash and Mike are aware. Important game in my mind and coming off slaughter by Clips expect an angry Denver team.

    Get them guys.

  3. Kobe Alert: KB moved to within 100 minutes of the Big O for 14th on that all time list – could be done in 2 games at present play rate : ) Alternatively, he needs 84 FT’s to catch the Big O for 3rd there. At the rate he is getting sent to the line, that may not occur this year : ) Kobe is the now the All time Leading Scorer on Christmas and the All Time Leading Scorer in All Star History. Still on the to do list: All Time Leading Scorer of the Playoffs, All Time Leading Scorer, and of course #6.

  4. Robert

    Im feeling the KobeAlert thing you got going on, I think it should become a staple on the game preview if Darius has the space. We as fans are truly watching history in the making, dude is putting in work in his 17th season in the league(AMAZING).

    Tonights game should be fun to watch, considering since Nash been back the team has seemed to flow in one direction instead of in several different directions. He is showing why so many people where going ape@#$& when he signed in LA.

  5. Robert,

    I really enjoy these updates; please keep them coming. Here’s a tiny addendum:

    At Kobe’s current scoring pace, he will pass Wilt and move into 4th place all-time in 37 games. If he drops down to 25PPG, he will catch Wilt in 44 games. So, barring injury, it’s happening this year for sure.

    Once he hits that plateau, he’ll be 873 behind MJ, whom he will race past next season for #3 all-time (and most points ever for a guard). It’s been such a pleasure to watch him come into his greatness, from seeing him jack up airballs against Utah as a rookie, to 81, to so many game winners, to still playing at an unthinkably high level (and arguably more aggressive at going to the rim than he’s been in several years).

    * * *

    I hope Pau remains a Laker long past the deadline, but keep an eye on Iggy in terms of how, in a fantasy world, he might look in P&G.

  6. The team is riding a huge momentum coming off a big win and 5 in a row. How fatigued they may be,I’m sure they are the hungrier team of the two and will put up a good game regardless. I am hoping for a good start from the starters as that will set the tone for what could be a looong intense night.

  7. Spotting every team points by starting Morris is silly. He is not good. Play your best 5 Mike.

  8. TheNCDon: Thanks for the appreciation. Yes – history in the making. Enjoy the game.

  9. Are Lakers wearing ice skates?

  10. One thing is for sure judging from the last 30 seconds of play—–with Nash back, the Lakers have no problem getting buckets and lots of them. What a difference maker he is.

  11. Sharing the ball.. always such a joy to watch. Nash’s presence and play-making abilities will sink into this Lakers squad day after day. Defensively though,Nash is being abused to many mismatches and easy point at paint..need more help D. Faried and Hill have identical game,interesting matchup. One to watch

  12. Someone needs to mark ‘The Manimal’

  13. We are not very good when Nash is out.

  14. Dwight looks completely disinterested in defence tonight.

  15. Offensive rebounds (9) and second chance points (11) hurt the Lakers in the first quarter.

  16. Kobe gets no love from the refs. Unbelievable.

  17. Chris Duhon early clock long jumpers – no thanks.

  18. No explosiveness at all from Dwight on that last foul, should have been a dunk.

  19. Duhon is killing us.

  20. Watching Duhon and Morris it’s quite amazing Lakers beat anyone before Steve was back.

  21. These are the games where dwights back isn’t 100 per cent. Him pau and nash were all on the bench at end of 1st q while MDA tries to steal some extra rest for them.

  22. Howard was wrapped. That’s what they do to someone who can’t shoot the FTs. It’s no surprise you see Denver have 9 fouls already. Idk if its because its just the 2nd qter but the D is bad.

  23. Re: Jamison – MDa didn’t bench him for bad reasons, but because he’s not strong enough to hold his own on defence, its hard for him to play out there until Howard is 100 per cent and can cover his mistakes. Jamison didn’t do anything wrong and mda has said as much. Once this team is stronger defensively jamison will get burn.

  24. Dwight is making no no no effort on defense. Watch him!

  25. Pau Gasol with a three and another

  26. Love the way pau is playing with so much confidence now.

  27. Geez, I’m sorry but these refs are terrible.

    Meeks may be hot and cold, but at least the kid always hustles.

  28. Why in the world is MDA playing Duhon on Lawson?

    Is it too obvious to put Morris on him at this point? All Morris is good for is D, Duhon is good for nothing at this point.

  29. Bad things happen when Meeks drives to the hoop.

  30. Darius Morris… Yikes.

  31. Never mind, I forgot the drawback to having Morris out there is he thinks he is Chris Paul, but has the ball handling and passing talents more along the lines of Joel Anthony.

  32. There needs to be a rule of thumb to anyone not named Steve Nash. “MAKE THE EASY PASS”
    Hill needs to be back in really.

  33. Oops, forgot, Morris thinks he is Chris Paul but really more like Joel Anthony when it comes to passing and ball handling – my bad MDA, good call initially.

    Better question, why is this guy starting???

    Lakers fortunate to be within 3 after giving up 13 offensive boards in the 1st half.

  34. @Zirk—Definitely one of those “uneven” halves of officiating I like to talk about (not “unfair” just “weird”)–But it isn’t the refs–Its the forty (!) freaking points in the paint for DEN in the first half, including a ton of O-bounds—-have to clean up the D-Glass and they will be fine….

  35. Darius again some fool is using other names to make stupid comments like the one at 7.04 which I of douse did not make. Is there no way this can be stopped or controlled. It is really making a mockery of this once excellent site.

  36. I’m seeing 2 exhausted teams. Battle of attrition for sure. Nash, in particular looks gassed, which is understandable. Pau is playing well. Whichever team has the most energy at the end will win. Lakers may need to try to slow the pace and pound this team inside.

  37. Morris/Duhon toooootally dropping the ball now that Nash is back; they weren’t this bad before. Jodie’s box score stat line is unfair, as I think the refs are being kinder to the Denver defense than to him — he absolutely got fouled on more than one occasion but got no whistle. Same goes for Kobe and Dwight.

    Steve Nash and Pau make me giddy.

  38. Yes Darius, something needs to be done. I almost don’t want to post with this pathetic no life guy acting as everyone else, it is really annoying.

  39. Ko i thought that was really you…lol

  40. its called a troll guys…just ignore him…they leave if they cant invoke any reactions

  41. As for the game, I am liking the Lakers chances, as long as they can get a rebound.

  42. Darius Morris with 3 TO’s in 6 1/2 mins…D-Fenders say hello to your new back-up point guard.

  43. Re: Meeks

    Good to see him being aggressive, but his issues lately relate to another point that someone (I think Gasol) made lately about the difference between this squad and the championship teams from a few years back—everyone understanding their respective roles, and staying within them—-Meeks’ problems lately are emblematic in this regard–he should be focusing on being a catch-and-shoot guy—not a put-the-ball-on-the-deck guy….he’s forcing things that are outside his strike zone at times, and he isn’ t the only one….

  44. Looking at the box score, the big concern is the rebounding. 31-21 in Denver’s favor. Lakers have got to clean that up.

  45. No I am not that bad. Wish the coward would come down and visit me here in Newport and discuss his problems. Happy to deal with it.

  46. We’ll see if the refs continue to NOT call these contact shots/layups before we proceed to blame the poor officiating. Meeks is playing hard as usual. If he miss one,he will come back with extra fury on the next. And just look at Faried,killing the board and 2nd chance point. His effort and energy ..just off the chart. The team need to start being more aggressive and hopefully Nash doesn’t fouls early.

  47. Now, my concern about this team is how they come out of the Third Quarter. If they come out slow, Denver will roll them over and that would be the end of all the goodwill and holiday cheer, that Laker fans have enjoyed in the last 11 days.

  48. For the second straight game, D’Antoni is forced to start the second half with MWP instead of Morris. Maybe just end the Morris Experiment now Mike?

  49. Dwight was gaining steam peaked then has visibly looked weary. He’s playing hurt but hopefully hasn’t hit a wall. He can barely jump.

  50. Dwight is simply not getting down court or making any effort on defense. Look like altitude is killing him. He looks really bad tonight.

    And this one is me.

  51. Gasol has now turned into a 3 point shooter.

  52. Just like football, speed kills.

  53. Down by 13….Timeout. If the Lakers don’t dig in now, they’ll get blown out.

  54. Tough when they are not getting boards – good shots by ron. Hopefully howard can go harder and get koufos out. Faried is really the only one giving lakers probs though. Speed n hustle hard to compete w when the guy is relatively big and goes to boards hard.

  55. Dwight Howard with a non basketball play on Faried and gets tossed from the game with a flagrant 2 foul.

  56. What was dwight doing? Took off his jersey like bynum too. Maybe he wanted the extra treatment for his back.

  57. Well, this is what happens when the refs don’t control the game by calling it both ways from the smart. Dwight was frustrated with all the non-calls against him tonight. Still, not a smart play tho.

  58. Dwight with the flagrant….his bball iq must be very low.

  59. When I mentioned earlier that someone needs to mark Manimal, that’s not what I meant.

  60. Bad foul by Dwight… Not sure it deserved a flagrant 2…. I know it’s not fashionable to talk about the refs, but I knew the Lakers were in for a long night when I saw that Danny Crawford was doing tonight’s game.

  61. Weak foul – looked worse than it was. But hopefully that wakes up lakers

  62. 6-6 2-2 you know who. Dwight is ugh.. bad dirty foul. He had to do that when we really need that big defensive stop. facepalm

  63. Having Dwight Howard on the team has not been nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.

  64. Gary

    Dwight did not look ready to play tonight. Watch the replay tonight he was standing and watching like Andrew on defense. He just can’t play back to backs and the foul was his way out. Not positive move.

  65. These back to backs *re when his injury shows up. Just not moving well or very spry at all. This is the worst team really for the lakers to play in this situation w denver being younger, faster and crashing the boards hard. Second chance and post points kill tonight and those are syptoms of dead/tired legs.

  66. Corey brewer plays like an all star every time against us…

  67. The Dwight ejection was completely justified (and good riddance as he didn’t come to play tonight anyway), but these horrible non-foul foul calls on the Laker end are killing us. 2 of Nash’s fouls were complete phantoms.

  68. Right now they may be better without Dwight tonight.

  69. Duhon has been seriously awful tonight, I wouldn’t even know he was an NBA player watching him…but MDA keeps throwing him out there.

  70. that was a big turnaround now down by 9

  71. Only a 9 point game despite the Nuggets shooting 96 percent in the third quarter.

  72. Tough task for the Lakers. The Nuggets appear to be the fresher team.

  73. GOOOODDDDD Duhon… I’m calling that last miracle 3 by Brewer on him. Seriously, 3 seconds left and you want to pass it out? Lay it in!! He’s making such stupid decisions lately. Let’s go Lakeshow pick it up in the 4th.

  74. seriously, delonte west is worse than the flotsam we have playing backup pg? please god make this ridiculous duhon disaster stop. he cannot defend, he can barely bring the ball up, and he’s good for some great momentum killing turnovers every game. what am i missing here? addition by subtraction, obviously noone will trade for him, but at least if he gets waived, Dantoni can’t keep playing him.

  75. Ko,
    As frustrating as Dwight has been, look at how much easier it is for the opponent to drive the lane without him in there. There’s no fear at all.

  76. Duhon is playing with no confidence at all evidently. He could have just go for it but instead chose to do an awkward bounce pass to Hill who isnt even in position nor is aware of the pass and ultimately loses the ball. 87-96 …

  77. 2nd chance points are killing the Lakers.

  78. Just wondering if Mike remembers Jamison had 33 points against this team. Meeks is a TO machine and 0 for the week. Take Meeks out please you can’t be this blind Mike.

  79. So many rebounds lost due to bad hands – jordan hill needs to squeeze it – he’s lost 7-8 tonight out of bounds or just tips it to the denver guys

  80. Why is Kobe playing the whole game but Nash has been sitting for what seems like ever. If we are conceding this game, take Kobe out too.

  81. Rule of thumb is get it to 10 w 5 mins left – then 5 w 2 mins left. Good drive by Ron. If he gets the free throw and they get a stop and score they give themselves a chance.

  82. Duhon never drives to score. He drives to pass. If I see it, so do his opponents.

  83. Hiring Jodie Meeks it s the worst idea ever since Lincoln said: “I m bbored honey.Let s go to the theater”

  84. Lakers D has been terrible, still we would have a chance if the refs called this both ways. Kobe last shot a free throw in the 1st Q and has been hammered on some drives.

  85. Kobe might score 30 but has given up 40.

  86. rr: just saw your DH comment. Needless to say – I agree : )

  87. These foul calls are getting ridiculous. If Gallo and Corey Brewer aren’t fined for flopping (has ANYONE been fined yet?!), I might consider stopping watching basketball altogether.

  88. One of the most garbage 3 pt. shooting teams in the league is lighting us up from behind the arc. I guess that’s what happens when you’re WIDE open all the time.

  89. League Pass is letting me down tonight….telecast keeps breaking up and the Denver announcers are just awful.

  90. @Ko

    makes sense…in a PC world

  91. Ron could have take an easier shot.. they need a stop NOW,no more exchanging buckets.

  92. Fatigue is hard to beat. That missed layup by Metta was a killer. Even Nash was missing 5 footers. It’s amazing that Kobe seems to be the best conditioned Laker.

  93. MDA puts in Duhon…seriously this guy gets paid 4 million a year to coach like this.

  94. Any NBA player doing the “guns” celebration after buckets either is completely ignorant of what is going on currently in the US or is just plain ignorant.

  95. Terrible sportsmanship by Corey Brewer. No need for the salt-rubbing.

  96. at least Kobe had 40

    Nash should find him mo’…

    Gasol back to earth…

    why is Duh-off on the court?!

  97. I wonder whats our record with Kobe scoring 40 points. No but seriously the lakers lost the game through defense. Can’t stop dribble penetration and duhon has to be the worst pg in the league.

  98. Scheduled loss it is. You can’t win a road game when you give up a 101 offensive rebounds

  99. I’ll chalk that one up to a scheduling loss. A tough back to back in one of the League’s toughest venues. The Lakers have to lick their wounds and then start a new streak on Friday. Let’s hope that there’s no further penalty on Dwight.

  100. I may not understand D’Antoni’s cunning plans but right now, they’re as cuckoo as the ones that flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

  101. Ko i keep telling you to not let it bother you…youre doing exactly what the troll wants…think about his life…he literally has NOTHING to do other than troll a laker forum…no girlfriend to take out, no wife to come home to, no kids to play with, no dog to walk…nothing so in his miserable meaningless life he decides that trying to make others feel as insecure and nonexistent as himself is all hes really good for…problem for him is he fails unless you let him succeed

  102. I’ve banned the commenter that’s impersonating people.

    Also, no recap tonight folks as I just got home and haven’t yet watched the game. Sorry.

  103. Darius is the MAN!!!!

  104. On a night where stamina was clearly going to be a problem, I don’t see why Jamison couldn’t get some burn. Even a guy like Sacre should have been able to get some minutes. I just hated to see the Nuggets howling like a bunch of hyenas. Payback is a witch.

  105. 24 hrs ago I saw this unimpressive Nuggets team get punked big-time by the Clippers. This loss is all on the Lakers for letting the mediocre Nuggets push them around and run circles around them. Just when you start thinking the Lakers might have turned it around, a loss like this reminds you of why they are 14-15 this year and headed nowhere. I just don’t see enough fire from this Laker team, there is no way guys like Faried, Brewer etc should be dominating the Lakers, but the more it happens, the more you start to realize the Lakers just aren’t as good as they think they are.

  106. It all comes down to defense with this team. They can score, no doubt about it. But their defense can be atrocious and just very lazy like we saw tonight. Also, people need to stop talking like this is now a championship caliber team because of a 5 game win streak. 14-15 people. Lakers need to start thinking about at least getting an 8th seed right now.

  107. Its pretty obvious this team lacks a second play-maker outside of Nash. Kobe taking some really tough shots but actually making them. Then you see him logged 44 minutes. With 52 more games to go, is this really what he has to contribute to the team day in day out just so there have a chance to win?

    Dear Dwight, please do not make mental mistakes like this again. Your defensive presence is so badly needed.

  108. Schedule loss is a excuse for a team who isn’t a contender. Nuggets played yesterday too. Lakers were beat by a team who’s always given lakers trouble. It would be nice to see a 3_ next to kobe’s minute log he’s playing too much. It seems crazy d’antoni can’t find a way to sit him more than 8 minutes. One thing that concerns me is dwight has played the blame game all year in post game interviews. His defense, energy and rotattions haven’t been perfect either. He should take it upon himself to raise the team’s play that’s what franchise players do.

  109. Dwight 7 rebounds in 25 minutes
    Hill 9 in 12 minutes.

    20 offensive Denver rebounds.

    I remain very unimpressed by this guy. He has gotten out played in most of the games this year.

    Not impressed.

  110. Kobe going 44 minutes in the second game of a back-to-back in December is dumb. Kobe and Meeks played 74 combined minutes tonight; Morris played 7, and Ebanks and Jamison got DNPCDs. And, again, people here who want to rip Kobe should rip his D, not the shots. Tonight’s game was a great example.

    But Kobe’s D is not the #1 problem.

    Nash helps a lot, but unless they can get more out of Howard and Pau physically and pick up a backup 1 or a backup 2/3 whom D’Antoni trusts enough to put out there 20 minutes and who can actually contribute, this team is not going to be good enough to make serious noise.

  111. Old legs versus young guns on the second night of a back to back. Nugs only have one guy on their roster (Miller) over 30.

  112. Not a loss worth getting upset over – would much rather have this out of sorts loss vs losing to the Knicks. Just means Lakers get another chance to start a streak. They just went 5-1 w 2 good wins against good teams – playing at that rate rest of season wouldn’t be too bad at all.
    That being said there are a couple things of concern on tonight:

    1. RR was bang on – Howard and Pau have to contribute on the boards and defense otherwise Lakers have zero chance. Howard had another poor night which is credibly attributable to his back – he had no lift and rotated poorly – and didn’t challenge shots anywhere near as good he did against Knicks – clearly having a day or two of rest makes a huge difference to him. He’ll get better with time – that being said, and this goes back to his Orlando days, he doesn’t like to take responsibility for his play. Post game comments were mainly aimed at everyone else’s defensive failings while saying he bailed others out (and as per Dave McMenamin twitter) throws Nash under the bus. Then complains that his ejection was undeserved and he’s not responsible for being “bigger/stronger” when he clearly made no attempt on the ball and just smacked the guy in the face. As remarked earlier tonight – that was clearly a “get me outta here foul” which ended his night. News to Dwight – you hit a guy in face w/o contacting ball you’re gone – not rocket science. That being said, shouldn’t result in a suspension – wasn’t that grievous. He doesn’t seem to get quite yet that his value to the lakers is as a defensive force – when he’s not at 100% effort this team isn’t the same and you can’t go trashing team members.
    Pau looks better on offense and seems to be more comfortable taking what teams give him – shot 7-11 w 2/3 3’s. But again I don’t remember 1 defensive play he was involved in. Denver is an especially bad matchup for him when he has to play alongside Dwight as he gets matched up againts significantly smaller and quicker sf/pf’s – and Farieed killed them. At the very least if him and dwight can’t be mobile they need to be wide bodies. Block out , clog, and close off those lanes that Denver repeatedly crash to the hoop for boards and second chances. But at least Pau looks engaged.

    2. No consistent energy tonight – Nash/Kobe were constant but the rest were none existant or took a while to warm up. Ron didn’t have a great game tonight – looked like his head just wasn’t in it at times and seemed to make one good play/one bad – key of course his blown layup in the 4th q – turned what should’ve been a 5pt game into a 10pt one when Gallo made the 3 off ron’s layup miss.

    3. Not much from the bench tonight – particularly the 2-14 3pt fga’s. Meeks value is as 3 pt shooter and when he’s not hitting its clearly a different game for him. Ron was acooler (1-7) and as said wasn’t quite consistent all night. Jordan hill’s stats look decent ( pts/prebs in 13 mins) – but he had so many balls that he just tipped or fumbled of his hands on defensive boards that repeatedly gave Denver second chances w/o having to expend any effort. Also – the bench had a really bad stretch in the first half w Dwight/Pau and Nash all on the bench and only kobe/Ron on the court. Denver pushed for seperation then and after that the Lakers just could not get close. i understand what MDA is trying to do starting Morris – trying to keep the young guy engaged and use some of that defensive energy to make the other team work – just always seems that Morris is guilty of bad timing turnovers that kill a run etc… in particular the 2-1 oop that he tried to throw to Kobe that ended up being caught and going back the other way.

    When Dwight isn’t 100% Lakers can’t play an all around game predicated on 50% being a good defensive effort. In this case if I’m MDA, turn the game on its head and play as fast as possible, go for broke and try to simply outscore the other team and let Jamison get loose in a run and gun game. Yes denver might like to play fast – but Nash is the best player in the league playing mistake free bball at this pace, and at least filling the hoop helps keep a team engaged as this team can’t grind out wins when it’s premier defender gets himself ejected.

    Not a fan of saying its a scheduled loss as the Lakers need to take a good shot at every game – but again Denver is bad matchup, on the road/second half of back to back etc… yeah you could see this one coming. Lakers have shown over the past 6 games that they are as good as any one in the league – if they can get consistent effort, energy, and contributions from all conserned – from the stars to the 8-9th guys on the roster. Games over the next 2 weeks should give a pretty good test as to whether this team can truly hang w the elite w matchups against SA, OKC, Clippers, Den, Houston – starting w 2 warmups gainst Portland/Philly.
    Houtons/SA are back to back on Jan 8-9th

  113. When your only young player has so little discipline that he gives poor effort AND gets himself thrown out of an important game, you are unlikely to win. Dwight Howard is a major disappointment, and right now it is hard to see this guy as a franchise player.

  114. Agreed Funky.

    Poor effort
    Poor fundamentals
    Poor self control
    Poor offensive ability

    Not franchise.

  115. And after getting ejected Dwight coward has the nerves to bash Nash and the coach and his practice habits in the media! This clown needs to grow up!!

  116. I have a post in moderation already in agreement w you guys – howard just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut. he clearly wasn’t having a good game – and if he had just said my back wasn’t there tonight no one would question it and just let it be that w/o howard healthy the Lakers will struggle deffensively and leave it at that. But then post game he just decides he needs to bag on the pg and coach. Nash tried to be diplomatic about it and his “disagreement” w Howard on court – saw the specific play and still trying to figure out how Howard can blame everything on Nash and be that vehement about it. Funny enough kobe was the voice of reason tonight.

  117. You know, I’ve given Dwight the benefit of the doubt as he was injured, but that doesn’t explain his attitude on the court. He whines, he pouts and at times I really question his effort. Offensively he’s a joke. No doubt he is one of the best centers in the NBA, but I would have to seriously hold my nose giving this guy a max contract if this is the player this team is going to get.

    In fairness, the refs do seem to be on a bit of a fatwa against him. Some lousy calls sometimes, but other times a lot of calls against him are justified. He uses his arms against other players and not his feet/positioning and… well… I dunno. I like him as a player a lot more than Bynum. And defensive centers are held in high regard in my world. Damn though… I’d trade him in a heartbeat if the right package was out there.

    The biggest disappointment to me about D12 as a Laker is the rebounding. His offense is largely pathetic unless they are putbacks, but that isn’t surprising. This guy is allegedly a dominant rebounder and I just don’t see it.

  118. In terms of skill, no one ever claimed that D12 was the most-skilled among the big men. Last season when we saw Andrew Bynum climb to all-star status, we kept reiterating that the kid has more skill than Dwight. Dwight is pure athleticism and defense. Sadly, that serious a back injury can certainly hold you back.

    Ever tried running with a sprained ankle? To those that can, please tell me how it feels afterwards? It hurts, and when you’re in pain, you tend to not be in the best of moods. Give the guy a break, would you rather have an injured, bowling big man over him right now?

    The Lakers should remember what it took to win. While we did sport Bynum and Gasol during 09 and 10, it was Lamar Odom that made the most meaningful minutes at the 4. He was extraordinarily fast for most PFs in the league, and Pau was the most-skilled (still is) big man in the game. Pau played his most effective minutes at center and not as a passing-3pt-shooting-PF. Therefore lets “play” basketball as opposed to think for basketball.

    My trade-Pau-meter is at an all-time high. With the December 15 signings already passed, I strongly believe its the January 15th signings that we are waiting to come due. That said, any form of deal that provides 2 guards and 2 replacement forwards (because Jordan Hill is a center in this offense) would be my best bet.

    Awooooooo! Sorry.

  119. We’d all like for the Lakers to win every game, but they won’t. Denver rested some of its starters when it became evident that they couldn’t win the Clipper game. Meanwhile, the Lakers went to the wire against the Knicks. Lots of minutes for older legs. All the Lakers looked tired, except for Kobe, who only looked tired on defense. :-)

    My point is that games like this are going to happen to every team. The Lakers are such a top heavy team, that, if their starters don’t do well it’s hard for them to win. The bench needs upgrading. The fact that the Lakers are starting Darius Morris says a lot.

    Concerning Dwight’s foul, I think an ejection was definitely warranted. Any further action would be overkill, IMO. Faried is the type of player who deserves to be fouled, and fouled hard. Dwight just took it too far. The Lakers can’t let losses divide them. Dwight has to be mindful of his post game comments. The LA Lakers attract a media feeding frenzy that takes even innocent comments and turns them into huge stories. The only way the Lakers are going to succeed is to have each other’s backs, through good times and bad.

  120. Whenever you allow Corey Brewer (career high 27 pts) to look like an All-Star, you’re pretty much guaranteed a loss. Defense, as a whole, was terrible all night. Combination of defensive principles (still not defending the pick n role correctly) and probably a lack of energy. It’s not a good look when your 2 oldest players look more energetic on the second end of a back to back than the rest of the team. Then again, Kobe and Nash just want it more. If I wouldn’t of seen the game and only viewed the Nuggets final point tally, I would have assumed that the game went into an overtime session (or two). Gotta get it right on the Championship End (Defensive End) of the floor if they have any asperations of attaining that 5th seed.

  121. I have to agree with Funky Chicken … Dwight Howard is a major disappointment and at this stage of the season, hardly a “franchise” level player. Even acknowledging his rehab from injury, he lacks B-ball intelligence and is too often barely visible for long stretches during the games. I knew he did not have a great offensive game but it is even worse than I thought. The Nuggets consistently outrebounded and out-muscled him. Just not sure the fire burns inside this guy. It seems as though something is missing from him. I was one of the followers of this site who urged the front office to get him. Unless he turns it around and becomes a dominant defensive force the rest of the season, I don’t see a future with him. Gasol the same. He is long past his prime and at his salary level, will be difficult to move but I just don’t see a consistent effort from him.

  122. Someone before said it right, “Dwight Howard is a nice guy.” That right there is the problem. It is just the way he is. He lacks that killer instinct, almost the same as Bynum does. Still, I think he brings more to the Lakers than Bynum did.

    Shaq was also a nice guy. But he was Shaq and in his prime could get it done with 50 percent effort. Dwight needs to put a lot more in than 50 percent to get it done, especially now in a league where centers tend to struggle more. He is good lets not kid ourselves. He is one of the top in the league in rebounding and scores around 15 a game. But in my opinion can not be a franchise player. He does not have that killer instinct like Kobe or Nash and can bring his A game on a nightly basis.

  123. A big part of the problem is Kobe’s so-called saving energy defense. He doesn’t even look at the player he’s defending. Also he cheats off the player way to much which either gives them a free wide open shot or he does the fly-by and doesn’t play defense the rest of the possession. He’s still one of the most talented offensive players in the league but his defense is worse than horrible, it’s non-existent.

  124. Dwight’s problem is that he doesn’t realize what his role should be. He is the only one on the team that can lead the league in rebounding. The only one who can shut down the paint. He is the only Laker who has the potential as of today to be a DPOY. The Lakers don’t need him to score….they need him to control the paint and the defensive glass. In short, Dwight needs to embrace the things he’s great at.

    Kobe can’t do what Dwight can do, and Dwight can’t expect to shoot the ball 25 times a game. A team’s players have to complement each other and each has to accept and fulfill his role. Otherwise, no matter how much individual talent a team may have, it won’t be successful.

    I think that last game was an outlier for Dwight. Despite recovering from serious surgery, Dwight always appears to give good effort from my
    perspective. He seemed unable to push through the injury and the fatigue last night. I still believe in Dwight. But, he’s got to believe fully in what his team is trying to accomplish. And in himself.

  125. Not gonna make excuses for last night’s loss, but that was some home court advantage.

    Altitude+home crowd+very bad officiating=the best home court advantage

    I don’t think it should have been a flagrant 2 but oh well, not gonna argue that one, although I do think Faried faked it when he grabbed his forehead (he fell on his side and it didn’t look like his head hit the floor, and if it did it would’ve been the side of his head). But the thing is, the frustration level was very high by that point. All those lousy calls going Denver’s way was what triggered Dwight’s foul.

  126. Ecomug, my thoughts exactly. However, we differ in our methodology of getting there.

    Delonte West is another “character.” That is the only reason why he is still floating in free agency and no one is in a rush to sign him. Put that on a team with Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard as of late, all we need is then to sign Kenyon Martin and snag Gilbert Arenas out of China. We’ll call them the “blazing bench” for all hilarity.

    I do not seek more guys like Delonte. Although some nights our dead energy (comes with age you know) we sure do need someone to give us a bit of a spark.

    (edited for trade speculation)

  127. Kenny, you are right in that Dwight does not need to be a big scorer, more of just a great rebounder and a great defensive presence. And he is that. But he just does not always play to his potential in my opinion. Maybe the inury has more to do with it than I think. But Kobe always plays through injuries and can still play like Kobe and bring it every night. Nash is still not a 100 percent and probably never will be again, yet you can count on him to bring it every night. The problem with Dwight is you can’t trust this guy to just bring it every night. Last night was a perfect example. Denver was just killing us on the board. We needed Dwight to step up and get some extra rebounds and it did not happen. He got frustrated, letting his emotions get the best of him like usual and then gets ejected. That is not what a franchise player does. Kobe gets plenty of T’s but he is not going to get himself ejected from the game. Dwight’s focus was not on imposing his will on Denver last night, rather it was on complaining and getting so upset because he was having a rough night. If he was more focused on imposing his will, he would not have gotten ejected. Again, this is not the typical behavior of a franchise player. Dwight is very strong and is going to get his rebounds and be that defensive prescence, but he is mentally weak and it hurts his team more than many may think it does.

  128. Here we go to the Delonte West crap again. He can play but seriously, why it doesnt look like any teams are scrambling for his services?Why? Bc he is a freaking cancerous locker room destroyer, if you love the Lakers so much, do you really want to unleash that on the locker room? About last night im not really concerned, this was a trap game the kind of game that everything was against us, terrible officiating Howard was getting mugged inside and Kobe wasnt getting the calls he normally gets, Dwight flagrant was beyond stupid and we lost the game right there. Horrible rebounding and the team looked tired after the exhausting NY game.And nobody would had predicted that the worst 3 point shooting team in the league would look like snipers from beyond the arch, thats a one in a blue moon kinda thing for them, i think from now on the Lakers should win 4 of every 5 games its posible and we have the talent. Im not worried about this game i chalk it up to “@$$ happens. The team is fine.

  129. Really think y’all are jumping the gun on Dwight Howard. Bad attitude? Perhaps. Worse than Bynum? I really don’t think so. As for his play, I honestly think that a lot of people here are underestimating the physical impact of back surgery and the recovery process. He’s being judged by the all-world standards he set for himself while playing in orlando as a DPOY, but as someone with a back injury, it’s not so much the contact during the game that makes it tighten up, it’s the next day that’s the worst. I don’t have any stats to back this up, at all, but I’d be willing to bet that the impact Dwight has is markedly different on the second of back-to-backs. Even with a drop in play expected from fatigue and all that. This isn’t to defend his play in this particular game or anything he said, but I really think everyone who’s saying he’s not a franchise player based on production should just take a step back and relax. Of course, whether his attitude makes him not-franchise player material is another discussion that I personally am undecided on, but as far as performance-wise, I just feel the jury is still out on that.

  130. Forgot to mention that Pau looks like he turned a corner. Another reason not to be worry about a road december game

  131. Joe M…..

    Agreed that Dwight doesn’t have Kobe’s intensity or dedication. Very few do. But, his lack of confidence in himself undermines his talent. Plus, he doesn’t realize that scoring is only part of the game. Dwight, like many of his contemporaries, values the ESPN alley oop highlight more than setting a good hard screen or boxing out. Dwight has got to realize that no matter how gaudy his numbers may be, or how many highlights he is a part of, there is only winning. He can ask LeBron. Your point about his mental makeup is certainly valid. But, players have to mature and grow into champions. Kobe and Shaq had to, just like MJ and LeBron had to learn what it takes to hoist the trophy. I don’t think Dwight is a finished product and I’m hoping that his best basketball is in front of him.

  132. Albert…

    You make good points about DH. I can nitpick at his faults, but there is a very short list of players that I would exchange him for.

  133. Avery Johnson has been fired as coach of Brooklyn. He does have an annoying voice. :-) Hope he lands on his feet. It’ll be interesting to see who succeeds him. Hearing that it will be PJ Carlesimo. Wouldn’t be surprised if another PJ is interested.

  134. Do you guys realize? You don’t count on Gasol and DH as players nor on Kobe as a playmaker-defender. Ok, repeat that to yourselves, this team doesn’t work with Gasol,DH and Kobe…It sounds pretty weird, doesn’t it? Maybe it is not a”players” issue, but a system issue. Those players remain great but they just aren’t concerned, they don’t believe in what they are doing, you can see it in their body language.

  135. “Agreed that Dwight doesn’t have Kobe’s intensity or dedication. Very few do. But, his lack of confidence in himself undermines his talent. Plus, he doesn’t realize that scoring is only part of the game. Dwight, like many of his contemporaries, values the ESPN alley oop highlight more than setting a good hard screen or boxing out. Dwight has got to realize that no matter how gaudy his numbers may be, or how many highlights he is a part of, there is only winning. He can ask LeBron. Your point about his mental makeup is certainly valid. But, players have to mature and grow into champions. Kobe and Shaq had to, just like MJ and LeBron had to learn what it takes to hoist the trophy. I don’t think Dwight is a finished product and I’m hoping that his best basketball is in front of him.”

    I am hoping you are right Kenny. Only time will tell.

  136. I don’t understand how people say that Gasol is turning the corner. Did no one see last night how many times Gasol fumbled away a potential defensive rebound because a nugget (usually a smaller, no, always a smaller player) brushed him? Ty Lawson! took the ball from Gasol’s hand, Ty Lawson! Gasols always out of position on D, never closes the lane when Howard is pulled out of the paint.

  137. In my opinion Pau did turned a corner, that he made some mistakes on defense thats obvious but he wasnt as lethargic as Dwight, letting smaller guys take the ball from you have to do more from somebody else not doing a good box out.