After a season of overachieving and proving doubters wrong, in the end the Nuggets folded like a cheap suit causing some Nuggets fans to start the chant “We Want A Refund”. From the opening tip, you could tell this was going to be a hard game to watch, with Chauncey picking up a phantom foul in the first 30 seconds. The Nuggets just couldn’t deal with adversity in the playoffs. They are great frontrunners that can get out to the early lead and never look back. They showed this in the first two series against Dallas and New Orleans, blowing them out in many games and even set a record for biggest defeat in a playoff game ever (58).
I don’t think there are any good things to say about any of the Nuggets after last night’s game. Even looking at the box score, the only real player that stands out as having a good was was JR Smith who scored 24 points on 10-17 shooting. When you dig a little deeper though, he had 0 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 rebounds, and 5 fouls (including a dumb one with 6 seconds left to go in the first half). Most of JR’s points also came with the game out of reach and didn’t have any impact on the game. Chauncey put up some nice assists numbers last night (9), but had a ton of turnovers (5) and his +/- was a team worst -28. This is not what the Nuggets needed out of Mr. Big Shot. He was supposed to be the guy that calmed the team down and had the poise to get everyone involved. This Nuggets team looked like the one from last year. Everyone wanted to shoot jump shots and play 1-on-1 basketball. They looked like last years team and they had the same result; losing to the Lakers. Kenyon Martin must have liked watching his jump shots from game 5 on the highlight reels because he came out firing that jumper of his (1-6 on jump shots) when he needed to be going at the rim. Carmelo Anthony, birthday and all, didn’t look like himself. He was limping up and down the court a few times during the game, and was still making bad decisions when he was being double teamed. He had been battling through some injuries, but he made it clear that wasn’t why he played so badly.
The Nuggets lost this game, and the series because of the decision by George Karl to double team the ball. Just when I had stopped hating the man, he goes and does this to build up my hate all over again. George Karl went to this strategy in game 5, and the Lakers showed that they are one of the best passing teams in the league from top to bottom, and had enough poise not to get frustrated when the double team came. Most of the double teams came on Kobe Bryant on one of the wings, or when a big man got it in the mid-range area. Once the double team was applied, the other 3 Nuggets had no idea who to guard or what they should be doing. A few times the Nuggets would just lose track of all the Lakers and give up an easy layup under the basket and other times once the pass was made out of the double team, 2 defenders would go to the player recieving the ball because of lack of communication, leaving most everyone else on the court open. George Karl took a chance with this strategy in LA and that’s where he should have left it. I don’t blame him for trying something new but he needed to realize that his team had not practiced it enough, and didn’t know how to rotate.
The Lakers were the more mentally tough team in this series and when teams are this evenly matched, that can make all the difference. I give all the credit in the world to Phil Jackson and the Lakers. They showed that this wasn’t their first time doing this whole playoffs thing and won every “must win” game and Phil knew exactly how to motivate his team. With all that said, I hope whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference takes out the Lakers and their Faker fans in 4.
Nene – left the game with a broken forearm putting him out of action for 3-4 weeks (not that he has anything to do). Nuggets fans are used to Nene getting season ending injuries, but I don’t think any of them expected it to come with 6 minutes left in the season.
Experience – The Nuggets gained valuable experience for when they make their run next year. The core is going to be back barring another big trade.
FT shooting – The Lakers didn’t let the altitude get to their free throws, they went 24-24.
Passing – The Lakers had twice the amount of assists than the Nuggets 28-14.
Kobe Bryant – I asked in an earlier post whether the Mamba or passing Kobe would show up. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, they both did. 35 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 1 turnover, 1 foul and a +31 +/-. This was his best game of the playoffs by far. He was doing everything on the court including stopping every little run that the Nugs would try and go on.
I guess there’s always next year.