Off Day Offerings

Apparently George Karl has realized that a repeat of the same personnel and strategies from game one would be futile, which means there is still hope to extend this series to five games.  It sounds like Linas Kleiza will probably replace Anthony Carter in the starting lineup to help alleviate at least one self inflicted mismatch, Carter on Radmanovic, from Sunday’s blowout.

 

Although, I think Scott Hastings made an interesting point on the radio yesterday that if the Nuggets start Carter and have him or AI guard Radmanovic, would it not be good for the Nuggets if the Lakers ran their offense through Vlad trying to post up AC or Iverson?  He really is not much of a post player and if he has the ball, Kobe, Pau and Lamar do not.  It certainly is a mismatch, but is it really all that bad for the Nuggets.  I can certainly see his point.  Radmanovic only scored in the post once from what I can remember and he AI even drew an offensive foul on him.

 

Then I went back and checked the tape.  Walton checked in for Radmanovic after the first couple of minutes and it was Walton posting up AI, with his ability to pass that really hurt the Nuggets.

 

Even with Carter out of the starting lineup that still leaves some decisions to make as far as who guards Kobe.  The candidates are Melo, Kenyon and Kleiza.  I would leave Kenyon on Kobe if not for the fact that they need his presence in the lane to help at least slowdown the Laker conga line to the rim.  Not only is he better at rotating to cover the rim, he is better at doing something once he gets there than Melo is.

 

What I would prefer would be to have Martin guard Gasol to rough him up with Camby covering Odom.  Camby hates leaving the paint, at least on defense, but if he could prevent Odom from getting any open looks from 18 feet and in and keep him off the boards that would be a big plus for the Nuggets. 

 

No matter how Kenyon and Marcus match up with Gasol and Odom, we have yet to figure out who will guard Kobe when J.R. Smith is not on the floor.  Either Kleiza or Melo will have to check Kobe and at this point I would have to start Melo on him.  Melo has enough quickness to at least challenge Kobe should he drive and he has the length and spring to challenge his jumper.  The one thing to worry about would be for Melo to get in foul trouble so there would have to be a pretty quick hook to avoid that.

 

In the Rocky Mountain News article linked to above it sounds like Karl is going to keep Kenyon on Kobe.  Probably the best answer would be a mixture of players and schemes to cover Bryant.  Have Kenyon, Melo, J.R. and even Kleiza on him from time to time.  Throw some zone in there and make sure Kobe cannot get into a rhythm.  If Kobe decides to hoist 20 footers most of the day, then count your blessings.

 

If Karl sticks with his strategy of unleashing Kenyon on Kobe, Melo is going to have to get serious about help defense.  That is unlikely as he has a difficult time paying attention to just his own man, but with a little extra mental exertion, he can do it.

 

The other bit of info that came out of the Nuggets camp yesterday was that Nene practiced and reportedly looked very good.  Again, in the same RMN article Nene is quoted as saying he wants to play some five on five before returning.  Maybe all of these off days are not such a bad thing after all.  15-20 minutes of Nene would be a big boost to the Nuggets and I hope we see him on the floor soon.

 

The Nuggets and Lakers are not the only teams playing and I have not provided any thoughts on any of the other seven series going on so let’s shift gears.

 

I am not one bit surprised that Utah won both games in Houston.  Everyone has been ragging on the Jazz for their bad road record, but if you have been paying attention, and it sounds like most people in the media have not, Utah has been pretty good on the road over the past couple of months. 

 

Since losing in Denver on January 17th the Jazz are 11-10 on the road,and actually 13-10 with their two wins in Houston, including regular season wins at New Orleans, Denver, Phoenix Boston and Houston.  There were losses to Minnesota and the Clippers in there as well, but Utah has proven, to me at least, that they play to the level of their competition on the road and now that the competition has improved, so will they.

 

If you think I am just saying that because Utah won the first two games, go back and look at my Q&A with Mitch from My Utah Jazz.  I asked him if Jazz fans were still worried about their ability to win on the road fully expecting him to say no.  When he said yes, I was very surprised specially considering Jazz fans are the most pollyannaish in the league.

 

On the flip side, in his quest to visit the second round Tracy McGrady has put up some nice numbers, but has been a nonfactor in both games during the fourth quarter.  That is not going to look good on his resume.  I thought it was crazy hearing Rockets fans saying they wanted Utah again this season.  They are going to get swept.

 

Phoenix and San Antonio have gone from playing in the Western Conference Finals to the semi finals to the first round.  Maybe they will both be in the lottery next season.  This series is going to be great and I think the first game was only a precursor of what is to come.  It might be difficult for Phoenix to feel good about that double overtime loss in game one, but the Spurs needed two late threes, one by Tim Duncan, to stay in the game.  The chances of that happening again are infinitesimal. 

 

One of the biggest concerns for Phoenix in my mind is I think Shaq is going to be in foul trouble for much of the series and without him having the ability to guard Duncan aggressively late in games due to foul trouble Duncan should be big down the stretch of these games.

 

I only was able to see a few minutes of the Dallas/New Orleans game, but this series should be very good as well.  I originally thought Dallas would win, but I am not sure they have the mental toughness to pull it off.  Kidd was supposed to provide an influx of determination, but with him constantly getting abused by Chris Paul, I am not sure he will have much determination and toughness to pass on to his teammates.

 

In the east I have been very disappointed in Washington.  I thought they had a great chance to win that series, but they have flopped in the first two games in Cleveland.  If they do not win game three at home this may end up being a sweep.

 

I have not bought into the Pistons this season.  I think they are overrated and the opening game loss to the 76ers might be proof of that.  Of course, Detroit could very well end up winning this series 4-1 and that is still probably a more likely outcome than a 76ers victory.  I think Orlando will give Detroit a tough time in the second round, but Boston will have a fight on their hands with Cleveland.

 

Andre Miller had a big first game for Philly, but Nuggets fans have seen that before (remember the 30 point explosion in the game one win in San Antonio in 2005) and I would not be surprised if he fades away a bit for Philly as he did for Denver.

 

I really have little to add about the other two series.  To me the only interesting subplot in the Hawks/Celtics series is how will Al Horford do against that Celtic front line, but that is only because I have him in my fantasy basketball keeper league.  After the nice season Toronto had last season it is somewhat surprising that they are going fade out so easily this season especially considering they are completely healthy.  It is funny to go to Tornoto’s roster page in ESPN.com and see as many guys with no college listed as there are with a college listed.

 

As entertaining as these opening games have been, I cannot wait to see what will happen next.

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