The Lakers took game one of the series, 128-114 behind a solid team performance. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were their usual selves putting up big numbers. Another huge factor was Kobe Bryant being guarded by Kenyon Martin. This was an interesting matchup dictated by Nuggets head coach George Karl, but it was a mistake.
At first glance it appeared to be a decent move due to Kobe Bryant becoming a jump shooter and missing a series of open jump shots. However, we all know Kobe Bryant can and will knock down jump shots without a problem and did just that after a slow start. He also was able to get his teammates involved and make them factors in the game.
It is a known fact that if you put a shorter guy on Kobe he will simply shoot over him and place a taller guy on him and Kobe will blow by them. The move to put Kenyon Martin on Kobe made a bad defensive team's deficiencies much more glaring and left Marcus Camby alone in the paint to attempt to slow Pau Gasol & Lamar Odom.
It is clear that the two best defensive players on the Nuggets team are Kenyon Martin & Marcus Camby. By placing Kenyon Martin on Kobe he was out of his element on the perimeter, leaving the basket area unattended and himself out of position to be a factor rebounding or slowing Lamar Odom.
The biggest stat of game one was the Lakers 33 assists on their 46 Field Goals.
Losing a game means that you now need to make adjustments and come back to play with different game plan. The Lakers have 12 guys that can dribble, pass and shoot. All Lakers are adept at ball movement and player movement.
The Nuggets are not a good defensive team and are not going to chase the ball more than two or three passes.
So what changes can they make? Play better defense? Play a zone defense to entice the Lakers into shooting more jump shots?
The changes that I feel the Nuggets will have to make going into game two:
- Take Kenyon Martin off Kobe Bryant and start JR Smith in place of Anthony Carter. Give Smith the task of slowing Kobe Bryant.
- Mix in some zone defense with man-to-man defense.
- Play Marcus Camby straight up on Pau Gasol and have him stay home.
- Tell him not to leave Pau Gasol in help situations.
- Have Kenyon Martin play Lamar Odom help to slow him down.
- Limit the quick shots they’ve been taking and use more of the shot clock to limit the number of possessions the Lakers have.
- Be more physical
The Lakers, on the other hand won the game, and surely are expecting the aforementioned adjustments by the Nuggets. The Nuggets started to get physical towards the end of the game one and will more than likely continue to use this tactic. The Lakers need to limit their turnovers & quick shots.
The Lakers need to run the break if available otherwise continue to display the player movement and ball movement within their offense that has allowed them to become highly efficient in getting the high percentage shot. The Lakers defense can improve as well, winning game one was expected but allowing 114 points was not.
The Lakers need to get back in transition to limit the Nuggets points on transition baskets. The Nuggets had no answer for Pau Gasol in the middle or Lamar Odom who is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds and these matchups will be further exploited in this series.
The first game of a series is the best chance for an underdog to steal a game, but that did not happen. The Lakers are playing very well at this time and the better team always makes the better adjustments and takes game two.
Game one was a high scoring affair but despite the score the Nuggets were easily dispatched by the Lakers. I feel that the Lakers will hold their home court tonight in a hard fought game and grab a 2-0 lead in their series. My prediction remains the Lakers in five games or less.
Game Two is tonight at 7:30 pm PST on TNT.