It Doesn’t Have To Be Pretty
More than likely still remembering the sweep in the playoffs last year, the Nuggets came into this game with a bit of fire that they usually don’t have. Some of that enthusiasm was due to the Lakers coming to town, some was it being their home opener, and some from this being Carmelo’s first game of the year.
You didn’t need to see the uniforms, only the game play to know the Lakers were playing the Nuggets. It was downright ugly most of the time, never having the flow of the first 2 wins, but in the end, it’s another W nonetheless.
In the 1st quarter, Andrew’s using that length really well again tonight. He did well in letting his arms do the work instead of leaving his feet unnecessarily. The first couple of offensive boards were impressive as he was often going up within 2 or 3 guys and corralling the board with no problem. Bynum did great in limiting the Nuggets to a one and done offense. If the Nuggets had the guts to get inside on the Lakers, which wasn’t that often, they had their shots altered by Andrew’s presence or they were pushed into a lower percentage attempt.
Problem was, once Andrew let his arms start thinking on their won, the reaches, slaps and flailing came in big chunks, making him sit for most of the game. Oddly, Andrew used his length well for boards, but also let his length take away from his game too as he tried to let his arms do what his footwork should’ve been doing.
Offensively, Andrew has to recognize a mismatch quicker. When he had a smaller man on him tonight, he would try to beat them with quickness, rather then just backing them down. He has to play to his defender’s inability better.
2 takes to the hoop for Derek within the 1st quarter was great to see. The drive has been a nice element of his game to see wake up. Fish was flat out solid.
Kobe came out a touch more aggressive tonight, as he got himself involved in the offense far earlier than he has in a while. Its not a bad thing, in fact changing things up like that can keep your opponent on their heels.
Kobe worked off of screens and curls sharply. Come the 4th quarter and surprise, surprise, Kobe went to work simply burying any shot from anywhere against anyone (including a beautiful step-through for a lay-up) as he dragged the Lakers to the win.
As indefensible as Kobe can be, there are moments when you see Pau and wonder if there are many ways to defend him as well. His incredible array of offensive weapons was on full display tonight – from short jumpers, to cuts for lay-ups, to tip-ins, to nice screen and rolls. When the Lakers were looking for some kind of flow Pau kept them up and running amidst a really damn sloppy game.
Sure you can play him physically, but if gets his footwork going like he did early tonight (dropping down into the paint then popping out to the elbow) there is little anyone can do to keep up. Pau did great in keeping Martin out from under the galas by making him follow to the outside by hitting his short jumpers.
Since the Nuggets are thin on players that can play in the paint, having Pau pull yet another one out of rebound range made Andrew’s job all that much easier.
One of the good things about the Lakers playing so terribly in the first half was the extended minutes Powell got to see. Josh did great in moving without the ball, especially from baseline to free throw line. He made space for himself to move through traffic and usually got a good shot look or became a good post to move the ball through to the other side of the court. Defensively, its nice to have a third level guy as good as Powell is to fill the lane when the Lakers were in such foul trouble.
The Lakers rushed their offense a bit too much. There were plenty of possessions when the Lakers ran away from the methodical pace of the triangle. Part of that rushing was not paying attention to the Nugget shot blockers, Andersen and Martin. A simple head fake will usually shake Andersen, and one small step through after the head fake will get rid of Martin. Unfortunately the Lakers were throwing up shots before doing either of these. There’s where the blocks rolled in for the Nuggets.
A tiny bit of patience would’ve pushed the 2nd quarter lead from 5 to 10, instead of letting the Nuggets reset things by tying the game back up and getting their confidence back. When the Nuggets got that confidence then it stuck with them into the 4th quarter. Sometimes one simple run like that can change a game for the worse or better.
The other penalty of rushing the offense was giving the Nuggets way too many transition chances. Considering that’s where the Nuggets excel, the Lakers would’ve again been better served to relax and use motion off the ball from screens better.
Another trouble with the Lakers offense was also self-imposed. For some reason or another, the Lakers let the nuggets turn them into a rag tag perimeter team rather than using their inherent advantage on the inside.
Defensively the Lakers were far too sleepy in the paint, letting too many Nugget players get deep starting position in the paint. Martin and Nene had way too many easy runs to the hoop without ever getting resistance. They were also lax on their spacing in the paint too. When they did come inside to help or to rotate through they got stuck, losing sight of their man or the ball and winding up clogging the middle for almost 3 straight quarters.
When the final buzzer went it was the Lakers depth that fished the win out of some seriously nasty play. They kept close through the slop on the road (always a good recipe for success) and wound up wearing the Nuggets down with a wide range of weapons. Though the bench wasn’t playing up to the par everyone’s got immediately accustomed to, it was still the bench and the amount of talent on it, that allowed the Lakers to play so poorly yet still get a win.