Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nuggets vs. Lakers: Game 16 Preview

(Boulder-CO) Since winning six straight games by an average of over 20 points per, the Nuggets have lost three of their last four contests and have been sputtering offensively. In fact, Denver has not had a 30+ point scorer in any of their last three losses which is very uncommon for the offensively high-octane Nuggets.

Furthermore, the Nuggets are once again bitten by the injury bug and the excuses just seem to keep mounting. Kenyon Martin was once again sidelined with a bone bruise on his right knee, Linas Kleiza was out for a few games with a twisted left ankle, Chucky Atkins is still not available with a groin pull, Nene is on the shelf with a ligament injury in his thumb, and Marcus Camby was not 100% for Tuesday’s game against the Pacers with a touch of the flu.

All of these unfortunate miscues, and poor team cohesiveness, are why the Nuggets are now 9-6. But do the Lakers care? No, and do I see them as the true root of the problem? Once again the answer is no.

What I see as the true root of the Nuggets problem is their on-again, off-again intensity on the defensive end. Against the Pacers, the Nuggets surrendered 20 points in just the first 5:49 of the first quarter before getting the defense squared away. One could chalk this up to just a hot start by Indiana, but the defense was once again non-existent to start the second half when the Nuggets got blasted with an eight to nothing scoring run. Need some more proof? Against the Rockets, the Nuggets did a little bit better, but still gave up twenty points in just the first seven minutes of the game. More and more of these defensive lapses are in box scores from the last four games, but the point is they are taking their toll on the Nuggets and what bothers me more than anything is how long it takes George Karl to call timeout and rally the troops.

Whether Denver is up by ten or getting shellacked by twenty, George Karl just seems to sit there. Granted, he isn’t playing with a full deck of cards right now, but still, when your team is running a lay-up drill it is of my opinion that you have to call timeout and make some adjustments. Whether they be personnel changes or just flat out getting in players’ faces. Too many times the Nuggets are without a vocal leader, and without a true point guard, the onus of blame falls directly on Karl.

Now back to the Lakers.

Los Angeles is a team that has had its own share of problems. Whether it’s Kobe wanting or not wanting to be traded, injuries, or just not showing up for certain games the Lakers are playing the same guessing game as the Nuggets as to what teams is going to show up. Both teams are scoring an average of 105 points a game and giving up nearly an identical even 100. As for a prediction… I think the Nuggets are going to pull this one out by a slim margin, let’s just call it five, because I just don’t think they can play much worse offensively than they have been. Carmelo is due for a big night. And if Denver can tighten a few things down on the defensive end of the ship the assist total will swell and the Nuggets box score will look more like a complete game. But make no mistake… Denver needs a vocal leader, and waiting around for one to surface either on or off the court is going to continue to plague this team for as long as the problem isn’t addressed.
Go Nuggets!

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