About Last Night. Well, I really liked the first quarter. It helped that apparently the Kingsâ€™ defense strategy involved doubling Kobe and Bynum and ignoring Brian Cook. Kobe, when he started scoring on the night, got to the line a lot and was very efficient overall (70.5% true shooting percentage, which is like points per shot attempt, and he did it while using a healthy 28% of the Laker possessions). Good nights shooting for Cook, Walton (team high +18) and Bynum (although Sir Charles is right that he needs to be more aggressive in the post with a smaller guy on him).
As the game wore on the Lakers got away from what they did early and didnâ€™t make adjustments â€“ when the Kings started fronting Bynum in the post the Lakers didnâ€™t burn it with lobs. Oh, and then the Kings broke out that fancy new offensive play â€” the pick and roll â€” which clearly Smush and Bynum had never seen before.
All that frustration aside, with Kwame and Odom out, playing a hot team on the road, gutting out a win like that is just fine by me. Every win right now is a thing of beauty,
Dealing with AI. Since Iverson was traded to Denver (lately known as the â€œcoldest place on earthâ€) there have been a lot of scouting reports on the Web, from smart people such as David Thorpe at ESPN.com, and their notes gave me some stuff to look for when I watched them recently. So, with me cribbing them, here are some thoughts:
First, the Nuggets play at the fastest pace in the league (98.5 possessions per game, three more a game than Phoenix) and that is really best for Iverson, who is better suited to playing in the open court than the slow-it-down system coaches seemed to try to force on him. Honestly, there is no good way to defend him in space. Make your shots, try to get back and just limit the fast break opportunities as much as you can.
In the half court, AI will be running the pick-and-roll all night, and the book on Iverson is to go under those (that should make Smush happy). The goal is to make Iverson a jump shooter, he has shot just 38% [eFG%] on jumpers this season. (To be fair, he has been hot since coming West, shooting 73% on jumpers, but that wonâ€™t last.) The other thing is the Nuggets tend to do the pick-and-roll with Marcus Camby, which is good because your big can come out to slow AI â€” Camby wonâ€™t hurt you until heâ€™s within two feet of the basket.
What about when Melo gets back? Great thoughts from ESPNâ€™s Thorpe:
When Anthony returns, it is fair to assume that A.I.-Melo two-man games are going to be a common part of Denver’s half-court set. If Anthony’s man hedges hard to control Iverson’s drive, A.I. will simply pass to Melo in open space — a scary thought to any defense.
Paging DrRayEye. If want to see a playground starting lineup, how about this for the Nuggets next year: AI, Melo, K-Mart, Smith and Camby.
Things to look for: Second game of a back-to-back, with the first game going into overtime, against a team that wants to run. That is a bad set up for the Lakers.
Bynum (and Turiaf and Cook) MUST come out and hedge or show on Iverson coming off the pick in the pick-and-roll. If they lay back, as has been the Laker tendency of late, it is going to be a long night.
Bottom line, Kobe and AI will be the leading scorers and grab the headlines tonight, but the team that has the other players step up will win the game.