What time is it? Game Time!
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. Mountain on ESPN
Today could not have gotten here any faster! After I posted my preview the conversation took off. I stayed up well past my normal bedtime to chat with fellow Nuggets fans and some knowledgeable Lakers fans.
Opinions have been tossed around, predictions have been made, your local Nuggets blogger has been asked if he's smoking crack, and everyone is ready for the game to be played.
I thought about spewing lots of stats, but what will that matter? I've determined from all the reading that I've been doing that everything can basically be thrown out the window as these two teams present unique challenges to each other. But if you are stat mad then I'll offer you this nugget (get it ... Nugget! Wow, I'm lame):
Like I've stated above ... let's just tip this thing off now! We are less than 7 hours away from tipoff tonight and I'll offer my usual CB7 inspired keys to victory for the Nuggets:
- Get off to a good start. Duh! After not playing for 6 days it's not known if Denver will be rusty ... a good start will answer that question immediately. As we saw in the Lakers vs. Rockets series ... L.A. is capable of starting off on fire and starting poorly. It'll be key for Denver to quiet the crowd by making some early shots to get their confidence going. The good news for Denver ... the game starts at 6:00 p.m. in L.A. so the usual casually late "L.A. fans" may not show up until halftime! I got jokes and jokes and jokes! (mind you they are not typically funny, but I'll be here all series.)
- Cover the Lakers one-on-one and don't allow for the open three-pointers. I'll bet there will be roughly 5,437 instances where Ariza, Fisher, or Sasha "The Machine" will launch the long-ball while being wide open. Denver will sink down on defense and allow for the open looks to occur on the arc ... we've all seen it too many times to think it'll go away now. And out of those 5,437 instances there is a 100% chance that I'll be holding a bucket filled with water and a jellyfish as I sit and watch the games from my bathtub ... if the shot goes in- I dump the bucket onto myself and await the sting ... if the shot misses - I keep watching! (a Seven Pounds reference? ... of course we're going Hollywood!)
Defensive rebounds must be corralled. To allow the Lakers easy put-backs and second chance points will prove deadly. Denver must control the defensive boards. This means that the Birdman might just have to resist the urge to block every single shot. When the Bird goes for the block that'll open things up behind him and Pau lives for the easy put-back layup. Anyone notice that when Pau utilizes his 4 inch vertical and dunks the ball that he acts as if he's just posterized somebody? Rather funny to me. "AArrrrggg! I reached up and dunked it! Look out!!" Haha ...
- Move the ball on offense. This has been the Nuggets recipe for success all season long. When the Nuggets are slashing, driving, and finding the open man they are playing at their best. If the Lakers can turn Denver into a one-on-one team that'll spell trouble. The key here is Melo ... when he gets the ball on the elbow we'll find out how the Lakers are going to try to cover him and then we'll see if Melo is holding the ball and settling for jumpers or if he'll find the slasher or take the ball inside himself, where he can either finish or dish off for an easy bucket.
- J.R. Smith. It's my belief that J.R. will not only be asked to score, but he'll be asked to cover Kobe while both guys are on the floor. Kobe wont be getting much rest, so look for J.R. to shoulder more responsibility than he ever has for this Nuggets team (pull your britches up young fella (for you Mr. 5280.)) This could very well be a coming out party for Smith's maturity as he'll have the toughest assignment tonight against a top two player in the league.
Play loose, but stay focused. This Denver team loves to play with the lead and loves to have fun on the court. While every possession matters, Denver should not take that point too literally because if they do - then they'll play tight on offense, which is never a good thing. Enjoy the spotlight and play your game.
- Chauncey Billups. This is where things could get very interesting tonight. If Phil Jackson wants to throw a major wrench in Denver's plans then he'll use Kobe Bryant to cover Chauncey Billups whenever J.R. Smith is not on the floor or maybe all night. Billups has been Denver's guiding light and has taken over on offense whenever he feels a lull from his teammates. Face it ... Derek Fisher can cover Dahntay Jones. Jones will not hurt the Lakers and Kobe's rest on the defensive end is not important since he's no longer asked to shoot 500 times a game. I'm very interested to see if Phil will bypass this option or not. If Kobe covers Billups ... then J.R. Smith must be brought into the game ASAP as the Lakers will be able to neutralize a great weapon in Billups with a great defensive player in Kobe.
I don't know how things will go tonight. I've thrown up a few times already into my trash can. I'm a nervous wreck and just want to see the Nuggets play and play well. Let's get this thing going ... GAME TIME!
Post Script: In the game thread tonight ... please stay focused on the game at hand. Do not feed the trolls Nuggets Nation (if they are around) and just root for your Nuggets. If you want to argue with a Nuggets fan or Lakers fan ... please do so in a respectful manner. Warnings and Bans will be handed out for those who do not cooperate. Let's have a good series and a great start tonight! Go Nuggets!!