Denver @ LA, Game One

by April 22, 2008
1

By Holly MacKenzie

Almost all of the news recaps about the Lakers/Denver game on Sunday will tell you that the Nuggets should have known they were in trouble when their bus caught on fire on the way to the STAPLES center. The reality is that the Nuggets have been in trouble the day the regular season ended and the playoffs began. Sure, they might have managed to edge out the Warriors for that elusive eighth spot in the West, but they did not suddenly find the defense that they had lost back in training camp. Couple that with their reluctance to enter the Ron Artest sweepstakes, which contrasts starkly with the way the Lakers shocked the world by snatching Pau Gasol up while sending JCritt and Brickhands packing, and you begin to see where the problems start for Denver

If things go as planned the Lakers should get this win. They are at home, they are rolling and they are the number one seed. Let’s not screw it up now.

Game one is about to tip off at Staples and Jack is ready, along with the rest of the fans who are awake and into the game from the tip.

First

Lakers are looking to get Pau involved early and often. Smart decision, since the Nuggets really don’t look worried about stopping him.

Kenyon is on Kobe. I was not expecting that move by Karl. Now we’ve got Iverson guarding Vlad-Rad and that just looks ridiculous.

Melo is hot early, knocking down jumper after jumper. If he stays hot….

Luke Walton is in the game for the Lakers and is looking better than he has all season, making great passes and getting the offense rolling.

The Lakers are suddenly up ten and Melo is at the free throw line. The Staples center crowd decides to show their maturity by chanting “DUI” at him. Nice.

This really isn’t the smartest decision by the Laker faithful. We all know they’ve got a lot of nastier things to say to Kobe when we go to Denver. Of course, Kobe generally plays well when he is angry, but the whole heckling players for their offcourt behavior always makes me cringe.

Just as quickly as the Lakers went up by ten, the Nuggets scored in a flurry to end the quarter and cut the lead down to four.

Second

Denver keeps on coming at the Lakers who are giving up points way too easily. They take a 31-30 lead as Kleiza is in the game and is doing damage already. Why does this kid not start? He’s a bull in a china shop with a pretty three-point shot.

Behind the momentum of Kleiza, the Nuggets take a four-point lead and it is the Lakers who now look out of sorts.

While the Nuggets are throwing zone at the zoned out Lakers, Sasha Vujacic drains a three to momentarily get LA back into it.

Kleiza has scored 10 points already. It could be a long night if the Nuggets continue to go to him.

The combo of Kleiza and JR Smith off of the bench is a powerful punch for the Nuggets as the two change the pace of the game entirely. JR’s got a quick 10 points as well and the Nuggets are forcing the Lakers into jumpers. This is not the way that they will win this series.

Luke hits a three after receiving the pass from Pau. On the next possession, they go back to swinging the ball around the perimeter and the result is a missed three which leads to a transition lay up for Anthony Carter. Think they’ll realize that going through Pau makes things a whole lot easier offensively? Hope so.

JR is ridiculous. People can hate all they want, this kid has the potential to be a star and I choose to believe he is trying to get it together. I love seeing him kill it, just not tonight.

With Luke’s strong play the Lakers have tied the game at 50 and are getting the job done. Sticking to the game plan of moving the ball and getting it inside, the Nuggets cannot stop them.

Lamar Odom has more than shown up for the game today. The combo of he and Pau is ridiculous and cannot be stopped.

Sasha frazzles Iverson to end the half and the Lakers hold a two-point lead, 58-56.

Iverson and Melo each have 14 points for the Nuggets.
Pau has 18 points already, Kobe has four.

Third

Melo with the jumper. I forget how good this guy is. When he is zoned in to what he is doing, when he decides he is going to get to the basket, he does. I know his jumper is nice, but take it to the hole, Carmelo.

Lamar and Gasol are just too much for the Nuggets to handle. Gasol is scoring at will and LO is a force. A force that has finally decided to impose himself on his opponent and use that unique skill level and size to wreak havoc on the helpless Nuggets.

Kobe and Carter get tangled as Carter fouls Kobe and tries to hold him to prevent him from falling. Kobe’s hand/finger/fist catches Carter in the eye, so he decides a shove is a necessary reaction. Tempers flare and Carter is given a tech.

Fish accidentally bounces the ball off of Melo’s face and the crowd resumes the “DUI” chant. I’m over it. So is Melo. Fish (of course), immediately goes over to Melo to see if he is okay. I remember the time I got smoked in the face by a soccer ball and literally was knocked on my ass. BAM! Not fun.

The Lakers are getting things rolling and it doesn’t look good for the Nuggets as the Laker offense just looks easy. 15-4 run for Los Angeles and Pau is dominating Denver.

Kobe hits a jumper and gets the foul, too. He is far too jacked up and is chirping at Kenyon and Kenyon is giving it right back. Joey Crawford warns them both to shut up.

Lakers are up 14, until Iverson hits a jumper.

Sash to Farmar to Vlad to Pau for the Dunk. As JVG says, “it’s like room service for Pau”.

Found out the other day that Pau currently lives with Vlad and Sash. I thought that was….. Interesting? Funny guys, these kids.

Pau runs the floor, gets another dunk. Ridiculous. This guy is a handful. FTH.

Camby sits on the bench.

A Farmar three at the end of the quarter is money and suddenly the Lakers are up 19 points going into the fourth. This game is basically over, but it is fun to watch the Laker offense.

Fourth

JR with the flagrant foul on Walton. The crowd is in to it, but the replay shows that it wasn’t really a dirty play at all, just a hard, clean foul. Shut up JR haters.

Walton returns the favor with a hard foul on Kleiza who hits both free throws

Iverson hits a jumper over Gasol and it is probably the prettiest shot that I’ve seen all day.

JR comes back with this hanging in the air, getting the contact and making the basket play that they show in the extreme slo-mo that is just spectacular.

Behind the boost from Kleiza and JR, the lead has been cut down to ten points. The Lakers still look in control though.

The Nuggets are getting to the free throw line and are missing as many as they are making.

JVG being fantastic as usual, apologizing for butchering the player names like “Keliza” and “Vujasitch”. Says, “Thank goodness for JR Smith”. He is fantastic. JVG4MVP.

Trevor Ariza looks beautiful in his suit, but he’d look even better in the game.

Kobe and Kenyon are being annoying and chattering back and forth. It’s a nine-point game, but I just kind of know that the Lakers are going to take it.

LO to Pau to Kobe for the alley-oop. Game over.

Iverson decides he’s had enough and gets himself thrown out of the game and that pretty much does it.

The Numbers
Final score: 128-114 LA

Gasol has 36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocked shots in his first playoff game for the Lakers.

Bryant finishes with 32

LO has 17 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists.

Walton finishes with 16 points and 5 assists off of the bench.

The Lakers have 33 assists on 46 field goals.

Melo finishes with 30 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets.

Iverson has 30 points and 7 assists.

Kleiza has 23 off of the bench and JR adds 15 on 6-8 shooting.

Denver went 23-37 at the foul line.

Looking forward to game two:

JR and Kleiza are the keys for Denver. Look for Kleiza to get the start and shake things up a bit. JR needs to stay aggressive on the offensive end because the Lakers can’t really stop him. Most of the Denver highlights in this game came from these two, despite Iverson and Melo each finishing with 30.

The Nuggets are going to have to decide whether they want Kobe to kill them or Gasol to go off for 40+. Effortlessly. They’ve already seen what Gasol can do, I think they’ll be far more aggressive defending him in game two.

Los Angeles needs to pick up their defense for 48 minutes. Too many lapses in this game and a lack of offensive patience early on led to missed jumpers, long rebounds resulting in poor transition defense and easy points for the Nuggets.

Kobe Bryant needs to shush his lips or Kenyon will beat his ass down in game two. This isn’t Chris Childs. And, we all know how great that turned out. (I tried to find the video to add in here for a laugh, but apparently it is NOT on youtube? Sorry, haters).

JVG needs to go wherever Mark Jackson ends up and the two need to be mic’d up at all times. I seriously love this pair so much and JVG is hilarious. One look at the bags under his eyes from stressing out over basketball and the image of him grabbing on Mourning’s leg is all one needs to see to know this man is married to the game, forever. My kind of guy that Van Gundy.

Courtesy of Russ : Fantastic JVG article
It’s long, but worth it.

For the Lakers to go up 2-0, they don’t need to change much about their game plan, they just need to stick with it. No hoisting jumpers and three-pointers when they can easily get any shot they want if they stay patient and run things through.

Lamar Odom needs to stay aggressive and continue to build on his solid play. There is no one who can guard him when he chooses to be aggressive offensively, especially when Kenyon is stuck to Kobe like glue.

To show how things feel in Lakerland right now

I love the weather. I love my ’63 drop-top Impala. I love the 405. I love my guys.

One big game from Kleiza or JR, and a loss on Wednesday and this all could change, of course.