The good news is the Denver Nuggets will play better in Tuesday night’s Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. The bad news, is can they really play any worst?
If there is hope for the Nuggets to win this series, it has to win Game 2. Obviously if they lose they’ll be down 2-0 to the much more experienced and bigger Lakers. But with a one-sided Game 1 victory it isn’t out of the question that L.A. may overlook the young and explosive Nuggets.
START THE GAME STRONG: Sunday was by far the worst start offensively that Denver could have wished for. The Nuggets turned the ball over twice within the first minute of the game. They missed eight of their nine shots, five of which were forced jumpers. Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari combined for 13 of Denver’s 14 points in the first quarter.
The Nuggets looked scared and timid and by the time they started to attack the basket and being aggressive it was too late. Denver’s bench cut the deficit to four in the second half, but Mike Brown re-instated Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant and the Lakers pushed their lead back up to 10 at halftime.
ADJUST TO THE HALF COURT: Of course Denver wants to get out on the fast break and use its speed to beat the Lakers. That’s not a secret, everybody in the Staples Center is aware of this – especially the Lakers. L.A. did a great job slowing Denver down. The Nuggets tried to push the ball on made baskets and they tried to force the fast break, but Los Angeles was back on defense.
Denver may win a game in the series due to their fast break, but it won’t be Game 2. To win in the playoffs you can’t just run, you have to be able to score in the half-court. And the Nuggets can, it just means moving the ball and attacking the basket.
Of course, Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo have to shoot the ball better. The backcourt duo combined to shoot 6 of 22 and missed all five of their three-pointers.
KEEP DOUBLING: Denver’s game plan against the Lakers is to double their big man, Bynum and Pau Gasol and let Devin Ebanks, Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions beat you.
It worked, kind of. Bynum had only 10 points and Gasol had 12. However, Ebanks made 5 of 6 shots for 12 points. Sessions had 14 and hit 2 of 3 from downtown, while Blake hit three treys in the opening quarter to push the Lakers lead from five to 13.
As bad as it sounds, you can win with Ebanks, Blake and Sessions beating you. The three hit their shots on Sunday, but it’s hard to see the three playing that well on Tuesday.
CONTAIN KOBE: For two quarters the Nuggets kept Kobe Bryant under control.
Bryant went into halftime with only eight points on 2 of 9 shooting and had a technical. However, in the second half he exploded for 23 points as Denver started to lose its composure.
MORE FROM THE BENCH: Denver has arguably the best bench in the NBA and that is its advantage against the Lakers.
However on Sunday the bench mob struggled. Al Harrington, Andre Miller and JaVale McGee shot a combined 9 of 33 from the field for 24 points.
Harrington, who may be hampered by an injury, struggled to hit a jump shot. Miller couldn’t find room to make a shot and McGee missed six baskets near the hoop. If those three don’t play better, this will be a quick series for Denver.