Well, it's back to the drawing board for George Karl and the Denver Nuggets. Karl could be heard on ESPN's "Wired" segment pleading with his team to push the pace and play with energy; his team ignored his pleas. Karl also poked fun at his squad for allowing Andrew Bynum to have a field day blocking shots in the Lakers 101-88 Game 1 win.
The Nuggets couldn't have played a worse game today against the Lakers. Denver didn't push the pace, played from behind from wire-to-wire, failed to attack the lane with purpose, and didn't defend Los Angeles in the right manner.
Bynum, already on ESPN.com's front page, is going to get a lot of attention for posting the first triple-double in Lakers history since 1991 (Magic Johnson) with 10 points (5-7 shooting), 13 rebounds (only 2 offensive), and 10 blocks. All in all, the Nuggets got lucky that Bynum wasn't involved more on the offensive end. That and the Nuggets gift-wrapped those blocks for him.
Time and again the Nuggets took weak layups and flat footed fade-aways in the paint, resulting in some of the easiest blocks of Bynum's career. Heck, Andre Miller could have made eight or nine of those swats. Something the Nuggets will noticed on film, Bynum is hungry to block shots and often leaves his man to go get it.
It wasn't until the 4:06 mark of the fourth quarter that Arron Afflalo made the right play on Bynum. Driving the lane, AAA drew Bynum in and then dropped off an easy pass for Miller, who finished the play by grabbing his missed layup and tipping it back in ... 95-78 Lakers at that point. It wasn't Bynum wanting to break the Lakers block record, it was how he was going after shots all day. On one play, Kenneth Faried came up with an offensive rebound under the hoop, with Bynum following him out of the paint, Faried tried to go back up with a soft layup instead of feeding the ball around Bynum to either Kosta Koufos or Lawson ... Bynum blocked the shot and Faried fumbled it out of bounds - a essential three on one netted the Nuggets zero points.
Karl must review the film with his club and show them that sharing the ball in the paint may result in some very easy buckets for the Nuggets. Nothing came easy for Denver today. Lawson, Arron Afflalo, and Al Harrington combined to go 10-36 from the field for 26 points. It was just a couple games ago that Lawson was getting 20 points himself, Afflalo the same, and Harrington 15+ ... if those guys can't get the Nuggets 50+ points per game, the offense is going to struggle, as it did today.
Lawson can't quite figure out how to attack the Lakers big defense. When he goes strong, he just can't finish over Bynum or Pau Gasol or even Jordan Hill for that matter. The Lakers seem committed to keeping two seven footers on the floor at all times with Bynum, Pau, and Hill. Lawson started 0-7 from the field and didn't hit his first shot until there was 7:50 left in the fourth. No surprise that his 7 points and 2 assists in 30 minutes resulted in a Nuggets loss.
Karl attacked Bynum with Koufos for 11 minutes, JaVale McGee for 17 minutes, and Mozgov for 8 minutes. That's about 36 minutes to Bynum's 35 minutes. Gasol stole the show on offense as Faried and Harrington played him all afternoon - Pau put up 13 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds ... just narrowly missing out on a triple-double of his own. One has to wonder if the Nuggets might run a little twin-tower action at the Lakers in Game 2 or if they'll continue to let their undersized duo attack Gasol. Faried went for 10 points and 8 rebounds, but didn't really have his usual impact on the game.
Once again, Karl failed to get his team to push the pace in the post-season. As much as Karl wants to say that pushing the pace doesn't go away in the playoffs, his team continues to refuse to do so. I don't quite know what will make the Nuggets wake up, but it was obvious they had some success when they were pushing the pace, on the rare occasions it did happen.
Gallo was a bit of a bright spot for the Nuggets on offense with 19 points on 7-14 shooting (including 5-6 from the free throw line). But Gallo was a -17 in the +/- department and allowed Devin Ebanks to put up 12 points of his own (all in the first half). Essentially Gallo only gained the Nuggets a +7 on the scoreboard with his offense and defense - not bad, but that'll have to be better.
The double-teaming of the Lakers worked with some mixed results. Bynum wasn't a force offensively, but the Lakers role players scored a combined 45 points on some wide open looks. The Nuggets slow and non-existent rotations bit them in the behind again. We've seen this story in the playoffs before. Denver was so busy trying to stop what the Lakers were doing (reacting) that they forgot to try to get their own thing going (acting).
With one stink bomb out of the way (who says coming into the playoffs on a roll works?), the Nuggets goal is still intact ... win one away from the Pepsi Center. Game 2 coming Tuesday night (May 1st).
Views you can use:
- Denver went 20-27 from the foul line to the Lakers' 11-15 ... minus Bryant the Lakers were just 2-4 from the charity stripe.
- Bryant scored a quiet 31 points on 11-24 shooting (9-11 from the foul line).
- The Lakers out-rebounded the Nuggets 52-46, but Denver grabbed 16 offensive boards to the Lakers' 11 offensive rebounds.
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