I quickly just wanted to point out this story from J.A. Adande talking about Melo vs. Kobe. I've been talking with a buddy waaay down in Kentucky throughout the season about various sports related topics and from time-to-time we talk about what effects the Olympics had on our star players in the NBA.
We focused a lot of our attention on the wear and tear aspect that playing so many games would have on these guys. What we have been hearing now is how much these guys all have pushed each other to become better players.
LeBron mimicking Kobe's work ethic on a daily basis ... and we hear from Kobe in Adande's piece that Melo stole his pull-up jumper from #24. I didn't realize that Melo and Kobe became such good friends during their time together ... as much as I loath Kobe on the basketball court, I must admit that I like how he may have also played a role, big or small I don't care, in making Anthony a better player. Surrounding yourself with competition will make you better and we are seeing our Olympians shining bright.
Just look at these Game 1 numbers from four key members of the Gold Medal squad:
LeBron James: 20-30 shooting for 49 points
Carmelo Anthony: 14-20 shooting for 39 points
Dwight Howard: 14-20 shooting for 30 points
Kobe Bryant: 13-28 shooting for 40 points
Totals: 61-98 shooting (62.2%)
Pretty unreal that those guys combined for 62.2% shooting in two games in the Conference Finals.
"Oh, we're going to respond. I guarantee we respond," -Carmelo Anthony
Series: Lakers lead 1-0
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. Mountain (ESPN)
I took you all through the Good and Bad from Game 1 and now that we're set and ready for Game 2, here is what I'd like to see out of the Nuggets tonight:
- Only play Anthony Carter to rest Chauncey Billups. This would mean Carter plays 10 minutes or less ... preferably around 7 minutes. I don't say this because of AC's bad entry pass, but because Carter does not match up against any Laker guards. Limiting AC's minutes will probably be tough to do since J.R. Smith is dealing with a strained calf and it's not yet known how effective he can be. I'm hoping Smith is fine and he says he's going to play.
- Keep swarming the Lakers forwards. Pau Gasol went 5-9 from the floor in Game 1 and I expect the Lakers to get him the ball early and try to get him going. He wasn't much of a scoring force in the first game and the Lakers will need him to change that. Andrew Bynum only played 16 minutes and committed 5 fouls in Game 1 and Denver must get him into foul trouble again. Not having Bynum's body on the floor benefits the Nuggets rebounding on both ends of the floor. It's a dangerous game to ask Nene to attack Bynum because Nene has a tendency to pick up offensive fouls in the post, but Nene must attack Bynum with speed.
- I loved Denver's quick start the other night and that needs to happen again. Melo is talking a good game to the media about Denver being ready tonight and again ... quick starts build confidence and deflate the 6th Man (the crowd.)
- No open threes. Denver didn't want to get beat in the paint and challenged L.A. to beat them from beyond the arc in Game 1. The Lakers did their part and had 8 different players hit threes in Game 1 and Derek Fisher was the biggest culprit going 3-6 from downtown. The Lakers were 11-25 or 44% from deep. It'll be interesting to see if the Nuggets again try to focus on stopping the inside game and even more interesting to see if the Lakers can keep up their blistering outside shooting.
- Denver's bench must play better. George Karl elected to open up the rotation a bit and didn't listen to anyone writing for or commenting on this blog and played Linas Kleiza (purely an offensive guy) instead of Renaldo Balkman (a Dennis Rodman clone w/ dreadlocks.) It continues to puzzle me why Karl elects to go with LK who hasn't shown any ability to get his offense going (0-0 for 0 points, 0 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 foul in 7 minutes in Game 1) over Balkman ... Mr. Kool is cemented on the bench and has not been asked to transform himself into The Crime Stopper ... it's too bad because if we want to see an increase from the 7 offensive rebounds in Game 1 ... 'Naldo would be just the guy for the job.
It's no secret that Denver's bench scoring comes in the form of J.R. Smith and he must get himself involved. Birdman Andersen and AC will get some buckets, but J.R. has to get going. I'll chalk his Game 1 performance up to nerves for now, but he must become a factor.
- The Lakers (or maybe it was just Kobe) did a great job of allowing Kobe to freelance on defense. He covered Billups, J.R., and Melo at various times. I thought it was a brilliant and probably easy call to have Kobe cover Billups, as I pointed out in the preview the other day. The Nuggets must account for Kobe's defense with ball movement and I think they did a good job of it up until the games final two minutes ... when Denver failed to get Melo a shot with Bryant mainly guarding him.
J.R. is dealing with that calf strain. Kenyon Martin suffered a broken ring finger on his left hand (non-shooting hand) when Kobe barreled into him ... luckily KMart shoots those running lasers with his right hand. This team has remained very healthy throughout the season and it'll be interesting to see how J.R. and KMart will respond to adversity tonight.
The Nuggets are not calling this a "must-win" game and I don't think it is either. But with that said ... I expect Denver to come out angry after not closing out the games final six minutes in Game 1. I expect a full 48 minute effort from the Nuggets and you know the Lakers will be ready and have a slew of adjustments themselves.
I can't wait for tipoff and I'm as excited as anyone to see what will happen tonight.
WWE vs. KronekEEEEE
For those of you who care about this non-story I'll offer this nugget. The event has been moved to Los Angeles clearing the way for Game 4 Monday night ... at least the boobs in L.A. will have some company in the "fake" department! Ah ... too old of a joke?
"They bumped us right out of the building, hardly an apology," McMahon said Wednesday. "They didn't do anything for us at all, and the media was talking about someone has to write a check. They didn't want to write anything and they wanted to give us a Sunday night. And the name of the show is Monday Night Raw."
However, Kroenke Sports claims McMahon had previously agreed to a deal to shift the event to Sunday.
"We negotiated in good faith with Vince and believed we had a deal in principal as of Tuesday," Kroenke Sports executive vice president Paul Andrews said. "In fact, it was so clear to us that we did that we asked Vince to do a joint press release. He said, 'Paul, I have no problem with a joint press release.' Then, he asked us if he could get five tickets to the Denver Nuggets' game on Monday night so he could apologize to Mr. Kroenke [Nuggets owner Stan] in person.
"That was Tuesday. We find out by a press announcement today by Vince, who I believe is the master of propaganda, that he's moving the event to the Staples Center. He didn't even contact us to tell us he hadn't accepted the deal we negotiated the night before, so we're quite shocked, frankly."