This is the sight that makes any Nugget fan cringe and every Laker fan jump for joy. With 30 seconds left to go in the game and the Nuggets trailing by 2, George Karl decided to use his smallest player to inbounds the ball. Not completely his fault as after running the inbounds play with the pass still not inbounds, no one came to the ball. Anthony Carter threw a floater which was anticipated perfectly and stolen by Trevor Ariza. George Karl was clearly dissapointed and shocked and even said “I wish he (Anthony Carter) would have just called a time out.” This was a crushing blow along with two late injuries to key players for the Nuggets. Kenyon Martin fractured his finger and JR Smith strained his calf in the final seconds trying to get his own rebound after a free throw. Both players have said they will play but if they’re not 100% it’s going to be tough to win.
The Nuggets can rebound in two ways, realize they were the better team for 40 minutes and come out firing, or fall apart because they feel like they gave one away to a great team and that was their chance to get the Lakers on the ropes. The Nuggets showed that they weren’t afraid of the height that the Lakers could put on the floor going right at them early and often. The Nuggets need to keep cutting to the basket for the easy layups and dunks because they can’t expect Carmelo to score 39 points on 20 shots again.
Defensively, even with Koby Karl’s inside information (he was cut from the Lakers earlier this season) and the extra days to study what the Rockets were doing, they couldn’t contain Kobe Bryant. He needed 28 shots to get his 40 points, but when the Lakers needed him in the 4th, he was money. He made the right passes when he was doubled, drained all the clutch free throws, and played solid defense. George Karl gave Kobe a few looks on defense starting with Dahntay Jones and cycling through others like Carmelo, Anthony Carter, JR Smith, and Kenyon Martin. Anthony Carter CANNOT guard Kobe. You could see Kobe’s eyes light up everytime AC was guarding him. He could post him up, shoot a jumper over him, or just blow by him with his quick first step. Dahntay and JR should guard him 90% of the time, with Carmelo on select possesions. Carmelo has shown he’s a much improved defender but likes to go for the swipe and gets called for cheap fouls and that’s the last thing the Nuggets need.
The key to this game 2 is going to be bench play. Throughout these playoffs the Nuggets would stay about even in the first quarter and then get their big lead when their bench came in. Game 1 it was the opposite. The starters built up a nice lead but JR and co. couldn’t put them over the hump.
Best dunk of the playoffs: