At least Lakers fans were forced to watch Duo Design. I'd call that a moral victory.
The Denver Nuggets: The Thunder raced out to a 31-15 lead after 12 minutes of action. I feel like I should go ahead and stop there because that was pretty much the ball game. The Nuggets continued to play hard but with little in the way of results: Denver shot 39.1 percent and got outrebounded 54-31...including 17-5 on the offensive glass. They also missed nine free throw attempts.
Still, it was that first quarter that doomed the Nuggets. Minus that opening 12-minute salvo, the score was 75-74 in favor of the Thunder. Definitey more of a game. Reminds me of a class I took in college in which the professor gave us the option of dropping our worst score from the four exams we were scheduled to take over the course of the semester. Which is basically like telling a college student: "You can go ahead and totally ditch one of your exams...consequence-free!" Which is exactly what happened. If David Stern let NBA teams drop their worst quarter of a game, this one might have provided some drama.
OKC's lead got as high as 26 points. The Thunder dozed off a little and let the Nuggets get to within 10 points (86-76) with 833 left in the fourth quarter. But a couple made shots by Kevin Durant combined with a series of empty possessions for Denver -- Wilson Chandler threw the ball away, All Harrington took the worst three-point attempt in the history of mankind, Chandler bricked a jumper, Ray Felton missed a layup, etc. -- killed any thoughts of a comeback.
Said Nuggets coach George Karl: "We gave them too many minutes, too many possessions of they were totally in control. They were energized, they were more physical, they were quicker, probably smarter. ... The hole was just too big. When it looked like we could get it under 10, a 3-ball would go in or an offensive rebound would break our heart."
One thing Karl neglected to say they were is more talented. It just felt that way. Other than their irrational optimism, what do the Nuggets have to counter Durant and Russell Westbrook? I know the box score will show balanced scoring for the Thunder, but Durant and Westbrook were there to kill any runs Denver tried to make.
I love what the Nuggets have done since trading 'Melo. But, in the NBA playoffs, talent usually wins out. I think they could definitely steal one in Denver. But you could tell last night that when the Nuggets needed to stop the bleeding or sustain a run, they didn't have a go-to guy. People say that doesn't matter...but it does.
Advanced stats of the game: The Thunder had a ridiculous Offensive Rebounding Rate of 39.5 percent. Rebounding four out of every 10 misses will give a team a distinct advantage. OKC finished the game wiht an Offensive Rating of 119.0.
The Memphis Grizzlies: Only because they lost. And just barely. But Spurs fans should maybe be little bit worried. San Antonio's game plan worked: After Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 49 points in Game 1, the Spurs clogged the paint, got physical and held the duo to only 23 points on 7-for-23 shooting. Furthermore, they held Memphis to 39 percent shooting (including 3-for-14 from downton), won the rebounding battle by a slim margin (48-47) and had a 32-20 advantage in free throw attempts.
And the game still came down to the final 15 seconds.
The Grizzlies did a surprisingly good defensive job, forcing 18 turnovers and holding San Antonio to 93 points on 43.8 percent shooting. The Spurs didn't do themselves any favors by bricking 10 free throw attemps, but still, they are struggling to score. The finished with an Offensive Rating of 97.1. And remember, during the regular season, San Antonio ranked second in O-Rating a 111.8.
Memphis is slowing down the game and forcing the Spurs to play physical. Ironically, that's exactly how San Antonio won four championships during the Tim Duncan era. Now the tactic they employed against everyone from the Lakers to the Suns is being used against them. Kind of ironic I guess.
Yes, it helped to have Many back...
...but the Spurs need to figure out how to counter Memphis' aggressive play. Unless Tim Duncan has a big role playing game convention to attend two weeks from now.
Shane Battier, quote machine: "Manu's Manu, come on. I don't care if he's in a body cast, he's going to be out there and he's going to be a handful to deal with. That's why he's a great player."
The New Orleans Hornets: They held the Lakers to only 87 points while shutting down both Kobe Bryant (11 points, 3-for-10) and Pau Gasol (8 points, 2-for-10, 0 defensive rebounds. Unfortunately, Andrew Bynum (17 points, 8-for-11, 11 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (16 points, 8-for-12, 7 rebounds) did whatever they wanted and New Orleans couldn't shoot (39.1 percent), rebound (the Lakers had a 44-36 advantage on the glass) or knock down free throws (20-for-32). They also gave up 22 points off 16 turnovers.
I'm mildly suprised they kept it as close as they did.
The Lakers were much more aggressive in protecting the area around the basket last night. According to ESPN Stats and Information: "After allowing over 60 percent shooting from inside nine feet in Game 1, the Lakers limited the Hornets to 43.2 percent from that range on Wednesday."
In related news, Aaron Gray (2 points, 1-for-4, 0-for-2 from the line) came crashing back down to earth.
Said Gray: "You could tell that they were hungry for a win tonight. Like they weren't able to match our energy in Game 1, we weren't able to match their energy tonight."
Added Jarrett Jack: "Obviously we got their attention in the first game, and their intensity was raised up a little bit more. It's going to be like that throughout the rest of the series."
And hey, giving credit where credit is due, Kobe took up the challenge of guarding Chris Paul for part of the game. The Lakers couldn't stop Paul -- 20 points, 5-for-11, 8-for-12 at the line, 9 assists and only 1 turnover -- but they slowed him down and kept him from taking over the game.
Update! Brandon Roy, quote machine: Almost forgot to post this, but Basketbawful reader Pinto Raine reminded me. From OregonLive.com:
"There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking 'You better not cry.' I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself. Then I was like, nah, you can't be sorry for yourself. I'm a grown man, but there was a moment there that I felt sorry for myself. Especially when I think I can still help."
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little hurt, or disappointed," Roy said. "But the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try and keep my spirits up. But it's tough man. I just ... I just always thought I would be treated better. That was a little disappointing for me."
"I come in the last sub of the first quarter ... then OK, I'm in there for (2:36), then I play, then it's the end of the quarter," Roy said. "Then I start the second and Bam! I'm right back on the bench again. I mean, I don't know what I could have done! Then I sit, and he puts Patty and Rudy in before me. I know physically I have to play, but mentally, how do I just go..."
Roy acts like he is being put in the game, and feigns a skipping motion.
"'It's OK! I'm going to play' and be all giddy?"
"I think my nature I've never been one to confront. Never been the one to create controversy," Roy said. "I think coach is comfortable with his guys and it's hard for him to get me back in there. If that's what he is comfortable with, then I'm going to try and support the team. And if he can get us past (the first round), then he can. I just always thought I would be treated a little better, but ... it is what it is. I'll be all right. I'll go home see my kids, and be happy."
I'm honestly not sure what's been more surprising: The rapid disintegration of Roy's knees or his character.
Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report:
Nuggets-Thunder: Chris "Birdman" Andersen flew into the ledger tonight by fouling once in 6:09 for a +1 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl, while Oklahoma City's Nazr Mohammed bricked once and fouled thricely for a +4 n 11:16 as well as a 3:0 Voskuhl.
Grizzlies-Spurs: Leon Powe earned a 2.5 trillion for the baby cubs (2:32) while Danny Green taught typing with Koopa shells in 45 seconds to give San Antonio a celebratory Mario.
Hornets-Lakers: DJ Mbenga buzzed off a steal and block in 3:03 with a foul for a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.