Lakers – Nuggets Preview Podcast
We took a look at the Lakers – Nuggets contest in L.A. while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers used a huge second half to beat Denver.
Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (shoulder)
Nuggets: Renaldo Balkman
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Martin and Nene
10:07 The game’s first variation from the norm came when Derek Fisher picked up his second personal foul just two minutes into the game, bringing Shannon Brown off the bench. Defensively, at least, this wasn’t a blow to L.A., since Brown’s bigger body is something Phil Jackson likes to throw at the 6-3, 202-pound Chauncey Billups. Brown promptly gave something on offense after checking in, hitting a jumper to put L.A. up 6-5 early.
6:21 Denver got the better of the first half of the quarter, building an 18-10 lead thanks primarily to four Lakers turnovers that resulted in six Nuggets points. All four TO’s came on steals for the visitors. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant had yet to take a shot, focusing on getting the ball inside to Pau Gasol (three field goal attempts).
1:13 Bryant, frustrated that J.R. Smith didn’t get called for a foul when reaching around him hard on an entry pass, drew his 11th technical foul of the season. Players can amass 16 techs before receiving a mandatory 1-game suspension, so with 22 games to go, perhaps the greater worry was that the Lakers had yet to get untracked while trailing 29-21 after Billups hit the technical free throw and a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. That was the margin by which L.A. trailed after the first, shooting just 40.9 percent from the floor to go along with seven turnovers, six personal fouls and 2-of-5 free throws (Denver made 9-of-13).
9:56 After yet another Lakers turnover, and Andrew Bynum’s missed lay-in from five feet away, Carmelo Anthony scored on back-to-back Nuggets possessions to put Denver up 10, its biggest lead to that point. Bryant, meanwhile, was just 1-of-5 from the field, and Bynum had yet to score.
6:52 Jordan Farmar’s corner three was much needed after the Nuggets’ lead reached 13 as the Lakers continued to struggle in general. They simply weren’t getting it done at either end of the floor, yet at least remained within striking distance. Three minutes later, needing a lift from someone after Bynum and Gasol both picked up their respective third personal fouls, Phil Jackson turned to Josh Powell … and J-Peezy promptly responded with two straight buckets in the paint, the second a two-handed dunk from Kobe, to cut the lead to nine.
0:37.2 Powell continued to influence the game with another dunk a possession after he’d found Odom for a layup out of a pretty three-man sequence of the triangle also featuring Bryant. Smith, however, picked up his fourth steal of the half and dunked at the other end to keep Denver up nine at the break, 52-43. Denver had figured out that the refs were letting a lot of reaching on the perimeter go, and unlike L.A. took full advantage by slapping at balls, helping cause 14 turnovers by the Lakers, already more than their season average (13.3.) Fortunately for L.A., Phil Jackson is perhaps the league’s best coach at making halftime adjustments.
*Also notable: rookie point guard Ty Lawson would not return for the second half after suffering a shoulder contusion on a collision with Bynum.
8:56 Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Jackson! The Lakers were far more aggressive defensively to open the third, recognizing how the game was being called, and that played a big part of Denver starting 0-for-4 from the field, all on contested shots. Meanwhile, Bynum scored on consecutive possessions in the paint over the shorter Nene, preceding Artest’s swipe of Anthony and resulting layup. Then came another Nuggets miss and 1-of-2 Gasol free throws to cut Denver’s lead to 52-50.
5:22 After all that positivity for L.A., the Nuggets reeled off a quick 10-0 run to push the lead back to 11 at 64-53, capped by a two-handed breakaway dunk and then a three-pointer from Afflalo. The dunk was a result of his and Nene’s strip of Bryant, the fifth turnover for Kobe, whose broken finger can make controlling the ball more difficult. Oddly, the player who hadn’t been a big part of Denver’s run was Anthony, who’d made only 5-of-17 shots with Artest absolutely attached to his body.
0:17.2 How about Ron Ron? Two more all-up-in-Anthony’s-face defensive possessions caused two more turnovers, and L.A. capitalized half as much as it might have when Odom and Gasol each missed 1-of-2 free throws. Nonetheless, the game’s flow had returned once again to the Lakers thanks to some inspired effort on D, and L.A. had cut Denver’s 9-point halftime lead to just three at 70-67, despite only six points from Bryant.