NOTE: Well, it looks like there were issues with both when this post went live, and also that some of the content was missing when it finally did. I had a fancy intro up top, praising the Lakers for making plays down the stretch and winning a game at far less than peak effectiveness. I wrote before Game 1 that at this time of year, there are no bad wins, ugly wins, or tainted wins. Just wins, and they're all good. I believe it. Beyond that, Tuesday's 105-103 win over the Nuggets should answer questions about LA's heart and character. The Lakers, including a bunch of dudes who otherwise may have struggled, stepped up in big moments down the stretch. Kobe led the way, but everyone who stepped on the floor contributed something to the win.
Anyway, below is what's left of what we put together last night... and ten hours later people can actually see it. Such is life on the web. BK
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way off the top (think of it as a spoonful of 'tussin, tasting like *&^@^ but leading to happier moments). The Lakers have a lot to address tomorrow at practice. A few examples:
- Interior defense: Denver's bigs dominated early as the Nuggets controlled the paint. 30 first half points down low, aided in part by a 6-7 opening 24 form Nene and five buckets from Kenyon Martin. Carmelo Anthony dedicated himself to play in the post and did plenty of damage there... and everywhere else. 8-11 overall, for 20 first half points.
- Containing Melo: Credit Anthony for staying aggressive on the block and not settling for perimeter play, something that had been a bad habit for him against the Lakers over the last couple seasons. Tonight, he was incredibly effective, with 39 points on 14-20 shooting, plus six boards and four assists. Dude was everything the early advertisements said he'd be, and more.
- Offensive flow: Pau Gasol needs to be more aggressive establishing position in the post, and the Lakers need to do a better job making sure someone- could be Pau, Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, or the kid with the mop if he happens to wander into the area- touches the ball in the post at some point in a possession. When the Lakers got the ball inside, the offense was far smoother, whether the shot came from the paint or was kicked out to the top of the key. Kobe in particular had great success down there, especially when he was marked by Dahntay Jones or Anthony Carter. He'll exploit that all day. The Lakers can't afford to settle, as they too often did, particularly in the early going.
- Energy: Denver had more of it early, and the Lakers were lucky to stay within striking distance. Only a solid quarter from Kobe and big triples from Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown kept them within eight.
But you know what? I'm not going to dwell. If the Lakers had won by 15, they'd still have work to do. At Monday's practice, Phil Jackson said and a few players echoed the notion that the Lakers would have to gut out Game 1, since prep time and rest were limited. That's exactly what happened. Throughout the first half, I kept looking at the score and wondering how the Lakers were so close, but they were. In the end, it's what's on the scoreboard that counts.