The Denver Nuggets can’t hang with the Los Angeles Lakers.
I know everybody wants to believe in the team and depth and overcoming the evil that is having stars on an NBA team. However, there are some matchups in conventional basketball that will just never be fair. When you have two giants like Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol on the same team and you’re guarding each one with a smaller/weaker guy, your ability to root them out of position and get a physical advantage is nearly impossible.
Maybe you can get this done for a couple of minutes at a time, but overall you’re going to have issues doing this for 48 minutes throughout the game. Kosta Koufos has been completely useless in this respect. He’s played 12 minutes in each game and the Nuggets have been terrible (-8 in game 1, -12 in game 2) when he’s trying to size up Bynum. The Nuggets have had Koufos in the starting unit for both games so far and his unit has been at a disadvantage both times.
It usually starts off worse for the Nuggets in the third quarter than it does in the first. The Lakers have come out of halftime and made adjustments right away to extend their lead. The Nuggets don’t gain momentum back until they bring in their change of pace bench players to cause a little pandemonium in the tempo and attack. So why not get that pandemonium going right away?
During The Association (the series on NBATV that is following the Nuggets this season), George Karl had a great line about those who question his methods with this team and his unconventional style of creating controlled chaos within the parameters of an NBA court.
“I don’t care if they think I’m an idiot. I don’t care if they think I’m a bad defensive coach. All I want to do is win.”
For Karl to get his team in the right direction in this series, it might be time for him to be the “bad defensive coach” and the “idiot.” He uses many guys as a change of pace off the bench. Andre Miller and Ty Lawson have been phenomenal together in the first two games. Al Harrington is going to live and die by his own lack of a conscience. JaVale McGee is going to be hilarious to all of us.
But they’re all needed out on the floor to shake things up. It seems like Karl is starting out games somewhat conventionally and then trying to be quirky with his next plan of attack. What if he was quirky the entire time?
I’d love to see the fast paced bedlam right away. They were at their best last night when they had Lawson and Miller on the floor together with Corey Brewer flying up and down the court. I don’t know that you need to start Brewer because he’s probably best in small doses of lightning. If you start Lawson and Miller right at the start, you’re challenging the bigger, slower Lakers to a track meet.
Pau can run a bit for his size but he can’t keep up with McGee and Faried. Sessions and Ebanks will be your Huckleberries if you decide to fly up and down the court and they’ll be pretty good about it too. And that’s the beauty of starting the game off chaotic, instead of using it as a change of pace. You’re daring the lesser of the Lakers’ unit to take on more usage percentage points and that’s exactly who you want to beat you.
Now, this is obviously contingent on the Lakers getting sucked into playing up-tempo but isn’t that what George Karl has been so good at tricking opponents into doing? Thinking they need to match Denver’s tempo?
Obviously, this is taking Arron Afflalo off the floor and he’s the best bet you have at guarding Kobe, even if last night Kobe made him look like some crème to brûlée. The fix could be switching Gallo onto Kobe and hope his length and the help defense can bother Bryant’s shot. Then you move Andre Miller onto Devin Ebanks and let Miller’s butt go to work.
(Speaking of Andre Miller’s butt, we really need to talk about this thing. I’m sure if LL Cool J could do it all over again, he’d add an annex about Andre Miller’s hindquarters to “Big Ole Butt.” It’s a big man’s rear-end on a point guard’s frame. It allows him to no longer have to worry about being slow. He can move mountains to the side by shifting from hip to hip.
Sometimes it looks like he has one of those flatbed carts at Home Depot and he’s going up and down the aisles with piles of 2x4s and concrete slabs on it. And the weight is just too much to handle on the turns. It’s veering right when he’s trying to stay to the left, like an out of control semi-truck. He’s bumping into shopping carts and coming close to sideswiping people in the doorbell aisle. Take your eyes off him for a second and you’ll find yourself going from hearing melodious chimes at the push of a button to shin bruises a plenty.)
Ebanks will have the height advantage but there is no way he’s getting position on Miller’s gluteus tankimus. Instead of keeping Koufos in the starting lineup, it’s probably time to call JaVale’s number at the start of games. I know he has asthma and he’s a deer trying to figure out how to walk on a frozen lake. But his height and length will affect this game in a way Denver desperately needs against Andrew Bynum.
As much as everybody likes to joke about JaVale, he had six rebounds and five blocks in the fourth quarter. He can change the game as much as he causes it to snicker.
Or maybe the answer for Denver is doing their own version of going big with putting Al Harrington on the floor as the stretch-4 and letting Faried be the 3. You could be maximizing your rebounding chances with those two flanking Mozgov or McGee inside. It’s pretty clear the Nuggets can’t hang with the Lakers in the halfcourt. Kobe is too good right now and the Pau-Bynum combination is just devastating for Denver. Throwing weird looks that allow you to continue to run while not killing you with size disadvantages is a mix George Karl needs to figure out quickly.
Whenever he’s played Faried and Harrington together this year, it’s worked out incredibly. According to NBA.com/stats, this pairing averaged a margin of +11.9 together in 33 games this season. Is it possible that adding McGee to that duo and using the two point guards in the same lineup could create all kinds of matchup issues for the Lakers? Maybe that isn’t a lineup you can stick with for extended six-minute stretches, but can you confuse LA for three minutes with it?
The Nuggets did a nice job of bouncing back last night and made it respectable. They even had a chance to win the game with how close it was. But they had too many stretches in which they allowed 12-3, 9-0, and 14-0 runs to the Lakers.
I don’t think the Nuggets can win this series but I do think they can give a hell of a quirky fight. They can let Andre Miller throw his ass into guys, let Ty Lawson be a teleporter in the open court and create frontcourt mismatches of their own just by slapping conventional in the face and challenging it to a foot race.
They’re not going to think you’re an idiot if you send this series back to Los Angeles at 2-2.