Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nuggets vs. Lakers Preview: NIMBY Edition

(Boulder-CO) That’s right, Nuggets Nations, this is the Not-In-My-Back-Yard Edition of my game preview for the Nuggets vs. Lakers. There is so much on the line tonight, not to mention personal pride for my friend George from Cali and myself, that the Nuggets have to be looking at tonight as if it is a must-win game with playoff implications. Because if the Nuggets were to win tonight’s game they would be tied with the Lakers for the sixth, and far more desirable, seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.

The struggling Lakers aren’t going to make it easy for the Nuggets. Despite being losers of their last six games, the Lakers are hopeful to see the return of starting point-forward Lamar Odom and the up-and-coming Luke Walton in tonight‘s match-up. Similarly, the Nuggets are still waiting for true return of J.R. Smith. Although he did play 15 minutes in the win against Portland, he was not the same old J.R. we have come to know and love. My hope is that the atmosphere surrounding tonight’s game will bring out the best in J.R. and we will be hearing, at nausea, “One, two, three for T’s, DiGiorno”, all night long!

To be victorious tonight the Nuggets will have to be on their game defensively and on the lookout for any wild flailing elbows from Kobe Bryant. Against the Portland Trailblazers I thought that Denver played roughly 28 minutes of solid D before the rest of the second half went to hell in a hand basket. That kind of effort fruited a W against Portland, but against a team like the Lakers, and a player like Kobe, that will just not get it done. The Nuggets need at least 36 minutes of solid defense to subdue LA for a number of different, but directly related reasons.

First is the connection between the Nuggets limiting their opponents to one shot at the goal and starting their fast break. In the first half against the Trailblazers the Nuggets were crashing the boards and as a result were able to tally 19 fast break points. The game’s pace slowed down once the Nuggets abandoned taking care of business on the defensive end in the second half and because of such the contest became much closer than it needed to be. The conclusion is that as long as the Nuggets sack-up on D they are usually fine.

The second point of emphasis that is related to playing good defense is the amount of turnovers the Nuggets accrue. When the Nuggets are in a position to not be their own worst enemy they usually win. I have found that Denver turns the ball over a ton more when the game slows down to a half court grind. To once again point to the Blazer game for example, the Nuggets went the entire first quarter without turning the ball over largely in part to getting out and running the fast break where one or maybe two passes resulted in an easy bucket. Other teams get sloppy when out on the break, but the opposite is true for the Nuggets. It is when they try to run half court offense that they become stagnate, indecisive, and sloppy.

The fork in the road to victory or defeat is going to be how, and how much, the Nuggets play defense. If Denver plays tight, the outcome will be favorable. However, if Denver plays loosey-goosey D and solely relies on their offense to get the job done expect the loss to be worn like a fat lip and a mickey’d up eye! It’s time for the Nuggets to restore faith to the Mile High City with a win over the Lakers. So, c’mon Nuggets drain the Lake-show!


ThaAnswer said...

Now this is just my opinion, but it seems like the Nuggets would be better fit as a seven seed. If they move into sixth they'll be playing the Spurs. The Sours can lock you down on defense and take you out of your style of play. The Nuggets won't be able to get out and run like we would like. However as a seven seed, they would play the Suns and we know it would be an up and down game. They're both great teams but it just seems like we would have a better opportunity running with the Suns than grinding it out with the Spurs.

Stumbleweed said...

See, and I kind of view it from the other side... I think that if we played the Spurs, one team or the other would inevitably dictate the tempo. If we were able to dictate the tempo, we'd absolutely kill them with our running (same goes with them and their shut-down defense). The Spurs are an old team on the whole, and they simply can't hang with us when we run. If we can keep our defense playing decently like it has been for the past few games, it's much easier to dictate our tempo -- I think that'll be the key. But yeah, I actually like our chances against them despite their very solid play as of late -- we match up well with them personnel-wise (gotta get someone to contain Duncan a bit though).

The Suns would be the least favorable matchup in my mind because they are basically a better version of the Nuggets. They shoot better, run more, score more, and play slightly better defense. If we get into running and shooting matches with them, we're generally going to lose unless everything is falling and our defense is working and enabling some easy turnovers.

To me, the Suns collective shooting ability spells trouble for us with our lackluster perimeter defense. We don't close on shots well enough to prevent them from killing us from out there with basically their whole roster. Throw Amare in the mix (who NOBODY matches up well against and can absolutely light it up like we saw last night), and I think we'd be in trouble against the Suns. I really want the 6 seed.

ThaAnswer said...

Well I think you just said the Suns play better defense than the lol. Perhaps you should rethink that one. Check the last time we played the Spurs, it wasn't pretty.

johnnyquest said...

i disagree with the suns being a better version of the nuggets. I know that the nuggets try and run and gun but the nuggets are #1 in the league in fast break points. I would say that shows that the nuggets run more. Also if kleiza can keep knocking down open shots, then we will have him and J.R. who can both go for 30 on any given night with A.I. and Melo.