The Denver Nuggets
: Basketbawful reader AK Dave has been saying for a while that these Nuggets reminded him of the 2004 Detroit Pistons, while I have contended that, other than Chauncey Billups, there are few similarities...beginning with the fact that this Denver team has no Tayshaun Prince-like player to put on Kobe for defensive purposes. And boy was that ever the case last night. Denver squandered a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 in L.A. despite leading for most of the game, having a large edge in free throw attempts (gotta love road cookin'), and Carmelo Anthony going nova for 39 points on only 20 shots. And it was mainly due to the fact that nobody on Denver could slow down Kobe Bryant. Without Shane Battier or Ron Artest (or even Andrei Kirlienko and Ronnie Brewer) to semi-contain him, Kobe looked like a guy who'd just been released from prison, scoring 40 points on 28 shots to go with 4 assists and 6 rebounds. Kobe also did it at the defensive end, as he helped hold Denver's shooting guard duo of Dahntay Jones and JR Smith to only 9 combined points. [Edit:
You can also credit Jerry West for hyping Kobe up with all that "LeBron has surpassed him" talk
To be fair to AK Dave, I'd told him that I thought the Lakers' size was going to bother Denver, but Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum only combined for 26 total points, while Nene, Neck Lips and the Birdman combined for 37 points. The Lakers' size did help with blocked shots and rebounds, however, as the Lakers outboarded Denver 46-37 and blocked 9 shots to Denver's 8. [Edit:
Don't forget about the 17-7 edge on the offensive glass. -Basketbawful] But make no mistake, this is a game the Nuggets should have won, and really needed to win, since you don't know if they're going to get another opportunity like this on the road in this series. On one hand the Nuggets probably shouldn't expect Kobe to get 40 again (it was only the ninth time he'd done so in the postseason). On the other hand, him taking 28 shots and scoring upwards of 30 seems to be de rigeur for him in these playoffs; while the relative no-show by the rest of his team is not.
Here's a little bonus discussion of who to blame for last night's loss, courtesy of some bad animation:Denver's bench
: One of Denver's strengths is that it's supposed to have a fair amount of depth, but that depth certainly wasn't on display last night, as the Nuggets' bench was outscored by L.A.'s subs 27-16...and that was with Lamar Odom being the only Laker sub to score more than 5 points (and even Odom only had 7). Denver got zero points from Linas Kleiza and Anthony Carter, and when your team only goes nine deep and one of the starters finishes with only 1 point, you can't have two of the four subs get goose eggs. Not if you want to win. It also doesn't help if your backup PG has his inbounds pass stolen when the team is down two points with only 30 seconds to go
: It could almost be said that as goes Smith in these playoffs, so go the Nuggets, as Smith had scored 18 or more points in 5 of the 10 games Denver had played in the playoffs this year prior to last night's game, and he'd only scored less than 14 twice. Well, whether the Lakers just had him scouted well and defended him great or whether he just picked the wrong time to forget what a basketball was, it all added up to the same. Smith notched his worst scoring output of the playoffs with only 8 points on 7 shots, to go with 3 turnovers and 5 fouls. When you add in his role in "defending" Kobe (see above), it was a pretty poor night all around for the Nuggets' 6th Man. Denver wasn't alone in having some players who played especially poor though...Andrew Bynum
: The man who was supposed to be The Difference Maker for this year's Laker team continued his march of futility throughout the playoffs, this time with 6 points, 6 boards and 5 fouls in only 16 minutes of daylight. Here's a tip, big guy: when you're fighting for playing time, the best thing you can do is not collect a foul every three minutes. It doesn't matter if you're Michael Jordan, if you rack up fouls like Greg Oden with a blindfold on, you just aren't gonna be on the court for very long. I'm just sayin'.Kobe Bryant
: Kobe picked up another technical (his 5th of the playoffs -- two more and he'll get a one-game suspension) for slamming the ball off the floor and into the stands while complaining about a call he didn't get (replays showed the non-call was probably correct). Maybe he figured slamming the ball was less offensive than hiking his shorts up to his armpits. Who knows. [Edit:
And seriously, I'm sick of Kobe reacting as shown below after EVERY call. -Basketbawful]Blake Griffin
: The Other L.A. Team won the NBA Draft Lottery last night, which means that nobody had a worse night than presumed #1 pick in this year's draft: Blake Griffin. Sorry Blake, allow us here at Basketbawful to tell you that unfortunately everything you've heard about the Clippers is true. After all, they proved all year that they were who we thought they were; though apparently that paid off last night with the extra lottery balls that frequently bounce the way of the worst organization in pro sports. Said Griffin: "Maybe I can fill a gap that they've had or been missing." Well Blake, when it comes to gaps in the Clipper organization, this photo says it all:Lacktion report:
From Lacktivity King Christopher: "DJ Mbenga commenced the third round of the postseason by opening up a brand new copy of WiiFit and working out a grand total of 22 seconds for a mid-game Mario."
Labels: Chauncy Billups, Denver Nuggets, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers