The struggling Lakers aren’t going to make it easy for the Nuggets. Despite being losers of their last six games, the Lakers are hopeful to see the return of starting point-forward Lamar Odom and the up-and-coming Luke Walton in tonight‘s match-up. Similarly, the Nuggets are still waiting for true return of J.R. Smith. Although he did play 15 minutes in the win against Portland, he was not the same old J.R. we have come to know and love. My hope is that the atmosphere surrounding tonight’s game will bring out the best in J.R. and we will be hearing, at nausea, “One, two, three for T’s, DiGiorno”, all night long!
To be victorious tonight the Nuggets will have to be on their game defensively and on the lookout for any wild flailing elbows from Kobe Bryant. Against the Portland Trailblazers I thought that Denver played roughly 28 minutes of solid D before the rest of the second half went to hell in a hand basket. That kind of effort fruited a W against Portland, but against a team like the Lakers, and a player like Kobe, that will just not get it done. The Nuggets need at least 36 minutes of solid defense to subdue LA for a number of different, but directly related reasons.
First is the connection between the Nuggets limiting their opponents to one shot at the goal and starting their fast break. In the first half against the Trailblazers the Nuggets were crashing the boards and as a result were able to tally 19 fast break points. The game’s pace slowed down once the Nuggets abandoned taking care of business on the defensive end in the second half and because of such the contest became much closer than it needed to be. The conclusion is that as long as the Nuggets sack-up on D they are usually fine.
The second point of emphasis that is related to playing good defense is the amount of turnovers the Nuggets accrue. When the Nuggets are in a position to not be their own worst enemy they usually win. I have found that Denver turns the ball over a ton more when the game slows down to a half court grind. To once again point to the Blazer game for example, the Nuggets went the entire first quarter without turning the ball over largely in part to getting out and running the fast break where one or maybe two passes resulted in an easy bucket. Other teams get sloppy when out on the break, but the opposite is true for the Nuggets. It is when they try to run half court offense that they become stagnate, indecisive, and sloppy.
The fork in the road to victory or defeat is going to be how, and how much, the Nuggets play defense. If Denver plays tight, the outcome will be favorable. However, if Denver plays loosey-goosey D and solely relies on their offense to get the job done expect the loss to be worn like a fat lip and a mickey’d up eye! It’s time for the Nuggets to restore faith to the Mile High City with a win over the Lakers. So, c’mon Nuggets drain the Lake-show!