One thing that everybody knows about this series is that Denver can't play defense. It's like the one unimpeachable fact of this series, and just about every commentator, expert, and writer has mentioned it. How do we know it's true? Look how many points they give up! Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that (as many have discussed before). The Nuggets play at the fastest pace in the NBA. They have, on average the most, and shortest possessions. That means their opponents have the most possessions, too. And that's why their opponents score the points. If only there were some way to measure how well a team defended per possession. Then you'd have a good sense of how effective they are at actually, you know, stopping a team from scoring (which is what defense is). Oh wait, there is that rating. It was developed by Dean Oliver, who now works for the Nuggets. And by that measure? The Nuggets have been the tenth best defensive team in the NBA this season, just five spots behind the Lakers. One thing that is a problem for the Nuggets though: their D appears to work at least in part by tricking players into going too fast and making mistakes. Good, prepared teams in the playoffs aren't likely to do that much.
Andrew at FireGeorgeKarl.com: "Whenever Carmelo stepped to the free throw line at Staples Center, the fans chanted 'D-U-I, D-U-I.' Ha, ha, very clever, Lakers fans. Well I hope we Nuggets fans greet Lakers' star Kobe Bryant with a similar chant about his past infractions with the law when he arrives at Pepsi Center on Saturday. How about 'SETTLE-MENT, SETTLE-MENT?' I'm open to any ideas you've got."
The key play, as told by nomuskles in a post at Forum Blue and Gold: "Kobe was anxious the whole possession. Alley oop to Kobe. It wasn't the usual backdoor. It was just a blatant mismatch against Carter who had no help behind him and ended up fronting Kobe. Pau got him with the lob over the top. AI decides he wants to check-out what's on the post-game menu a little early and gets tossed from the game with two quick technicals. Or maybe he had a 3:00pm surfing lesson. Kobe gets to shoot four free throws in a row. Pad his stats time. Despite shooting a horridly, he still got 32 points. 122-107. This one is done and now everyone knows it."
ESPN's J.A. Adande: "Ron Artest was sitting on the baseline near the Nuggets' bench Sunday. He said he still hasn't decided whether or not to opt out of his contract -- "My agent doesn't want me to," he said -- and not to read anything into his proximity to the Nuggets."
Remember when Allen Iverson led an underdog team into Game 1 in Los Angeles and won? That Finals performance may be the finest of Iverson's career to date.
George Karl and staff, doing their thing.
George Karl says Denver's going home because it's always good to be home, and it helps prepare etc. But right after Carmelo Anthony was stopped for DUI, there was an article saying that the team might be sticking close to home to prevent Nuggets from getting in late night trouble on the road. Even if that is the case, I don't blame Karl for not explaining it that way -- it's a little humiliating for the players, for sure. The whole thing strikes me as a little sad.
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "It was a day of class, with Rick Fox bringing out the ball to start the game. It was a day of crass, with some Lakers fans chanting, 'D-U-I' when Carmelo Anthony shot his first free throws. It was a day of sass, with Coach Phil Jackson, during pregame interviews, impulsively calling out Shaquille O'Neal for never getting his proper sleep during the playoffs. But mostly, it was a day of Gas. 'As hard as it was for me to have that burden of never winning a playoff game, I think it made me who I am,' Gasol says."
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "In one corner, the Denver Nuggets pushed and shoved on a couple of layup sequences. In the other corner, the Lakers managed to keep level heads, picking up only one technical foul, which happened to go to Kobe Bryant ... again. The Nuggets aren't known for being the latest incarnation of Detroit's 'Bad Boys' teams, but Bryant didn't seem to mind. An avowed devotee of old-school basketball, he laughed it off. 'It's like vintage '80s, except for if you knock a guy to the floor, you'll get suspended for a game or so,' Bryant said."
Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "It feels blasphemous to even think it, much less say it aloud, but these Lakers -- Kobe's and Pau's Lakers, that is -- just might end up being better than Kobe and Shaq's dysfunctional, but brilliant bunches of the early 2000s. It's still very, very early. And this Denver Nuggets team the Lakers easily dispatched 128-114 Sunday afternoon in Game1 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series seemed like it could implode at any moment. But every time you watch Gasol play, and the way Kobe and the Lakers play with him, you can't help but think it."
Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: "Follow the chain that yanked the Nuggets all game long and you will find the devilish smile of the man clearly in command of this NBA playoff series after only one game: Kobe Bryant. Did Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers get in the heads of Denver players and coaches, who were yapping, crying dirty pool, complaining to the refs and trying to regain their equilibrium after a 128-114 loss? Put it this way: Bryant did more than beat the Nuggets. He performed brain-salad surgery on them. Can Denver recover? Or was this the beginning of yet another sad, quick end for the Nuggets in the playoffs?"
Dave Kreiger of the Rocky Mountain News: "This could turn out
to be an epitaph for the current edition of the Nuggets. Lots of good things. Iverson and Anthony each put up 30 points and Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith combined for 38 off the bench. That should be good enough to win. Also lots of bad things, chief among them the defense, or lack of it, and the constant yapping. No surprise there. And unless they can find a way to start surprising in those areas, they're going to have a hard time giving the Lakers a series."