Game 1 Recap — The View from Denver...

Well, you know all is right with the world when the SS&R game thread regulars are spending their evening sniping at one another over the artistic quality of the Lakers 105-103 WIN Tuesday over the Denver Nuggets to open up the Western Conference Finals.

Tim_mediumI'm the Grumpy McSourpuss "Glass Half Empty" Guy on this one — Lakers managed to flaccidly spot their opponent a 10+ point lead in the 1st Q (again!), before batting back to a de facto tie at the half, powered by Kobe Bryant and a spate of Nugget FT ineptitude. Then they promptly managed to take a drubbing in their Money Quarter, the 3rd. They still trailed by 7 points with about 6 minutes left in the game. Tied with about 90 seconds left in the contest, as I recall, the coin toss came up heads and they escaped with a 2 point win.

Thank you cards are in the mail to Kenyon Martin and Anthony Carter, as well as to Nené for graciously fouling out.

Here's the LINK for the PopcornMachine game flow — tell me please how I as a Laker fan am supposed to be ecstatic about the way the Lakers played in this game. The defense sucked, Denver's front line went off for 68 points (!!!), and it is only through the grace of a couple Professional-grade Chicken Chokes that the Lakers managed to slip out of their own building with their larcenously-obtained booty.

Don't get me wrong, winning is way the hell better than losing. But when the Lakers have to rely upon on 44% shooting from beyond the arc and count on Denver to gag away a dozen points by shooting Free Throws like nearsighted understudies from the Dwight Howard Appreciation Society — PLEASE don't shave that pig and tell me it's your mama.

That was a bad performance. A lucky result. An exciting finish and a fun game, yes— but a bad performance.

Still, you put 4 Ws together — good performances, bad performances, it doesn't matter — and you move along. Count with me: "One."

Well, let's take a spin around the Land of the McNuggets for some leads'n'links, shall we?

(More stuff after the jump...)

Click the headlines to read the complete stories...

(1)

Nuggets Lose Game 1 in LA

by Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post

LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant stole the spotlight late to deny the Nuggets, 105-103, in the first game of the Western Conference finals here Tuesday night.

Bryant scored 40 points, including six free throws in the final 30 seconds to rally Los Angeles from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Bryant's two free throws with 5.8 seconds gave the Lakers a 105-102 lead.

The Lakers fouled J.R. Smith with 3.2 seconds left near midcourt to prevent a tying 3-point shot attempt at the buzzer. Smith made his first free throw and missed the second but Bryant got the rebound as time ran out.

Bryant scored 18 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers' Trevor Ariza had the big defensive play, stealing an in-bound pass thrown by the Nuggets' Anthony Carter over Lamar Odom with 30.5 seconds left. The Nuggets fouled Bryant with 10 seconds left and he made both free throws for a 103-99 lead. * * *

 

(2)

WCF Game 1 - Nugg Life (Vol. 1)

posted by "Runningdonut" to Pickaxe and Roll

Ouch.

Now that the heartbreak has set in a bit it's time to get hammered and let friends feed you sympathetic lies to make you feel better. In reality, I'm pretty encouraged. Everything was going according to planned, and we just didn't make our patented 4th quarter run to put it away. Well, these aren't the Mavs or the Hornets and we're not playing at home. They aren't going to fold in the 4th quarter, that's why they are the Lakers. Two clutch players going at it in crunch time would have been great to see, but we somehow could not get the ball in Melo's hand. Credit to Kobe for making free throws count, something the Nuggets have not yet grasped.

A few of my thoughts:

  • Let's not start this series off with a bitch-fest about the officials. The Lakers came out soft, eventually got more aggressive and had more calls go their way in the fourth quarter. Whining about this is a waste of time and something losers do, because it seems like a legitimate reason to justify why your team came up short. The Nuggets were still one play away from winning this thing
  • Phil Jackson made better adjustments than George Karl. Putting Ariza on Chauncey and Kobe on Anthony made it harder for Chauncey to get Melo the ball. Melo was murdering Ariza anyways, the Lakers did not have an answer for him. * * *
  • Birdman sat for too long and we desperately need size and rebounding. The Lakers were +9 on the boards. Birdman plays 24 minutes and had only 1 foul. He can handle more minutes and need s to be in the game. * * *
  • The Nuggets have been tempting fate by shooting poorly at the free throw line. The only saviors have been Chauncey and Melo's consistent performance. It finally cost us a game, and it should be a kick in the ass to make them count.
  • The Nuggets are facing adversity for the first time being down in a series, and if they have what it takes to play for a championship they will right the ship. The effort was there, but it's a matter of making adjustments and correcting mistakes (coaches and players). They should know they can play with the Lakers, and beat them with a little more smarter play. This team is a lot better than anyone they have faced so far, and most of the Nuggets stepped up. * * *

 

(3)

Heartbreaker... Nuggets/Lakers Game 1 Recap...

by Andrew, Denver Stiffs.com

I'll do my best to cut through my depression and recap what we all saw tonight.

First off, the Nuggets didn't lose solely because George Karl foolishly inserted his shortest player to inbound the most critical possession of the game against the league's tallest team. But it certainly didn't help (more on that below).

The bottom line is that George Karl doesn't shoot free throws and he's not on the floor to close out on opposing three-point shots. And while the Nuggets played a solid game from start to finish, those two areas did them in.

By now you know the tale from the free throw line: 12 free throws missed. If the Nuggets make half of those, this game ends with the Nuggets up 1-0. It should be noted that missed free throws is what cost the Nuggets their other two road losses in the playoffs this year. Against New Orleans in Game 3 of the first round, the Nuggets missed 11 free throws and lost by just two points. And against Dallas in Game 4 in the second round, the Nuggets missed 12 free throws and, again, lost by a mere two points. And tonight's loss? You got it, by a mere two points.

Now, about that inbounds pass. I felt really bad for Anthony Carter, who didn't have his best game but played tough defense against Kobe, and also felt bad for Karl, who I thought coached a good game up until his bonehead decision to have the 6'0" A.C. inbounds the ball against the 6'10" Lamar Odom. Karl's insistence on having A.C. in games in critical situations - something we've griped about for two years now - finally bit him in the ass tonight. Of course, had the Nuggets made just a few more free throws, this is a non-issue, but that's not the reality. And it's a shame because otherwise the Nuggets played a fairly solid game, both mentally and physically. * * *

 

(4)

The (Game) One that Slipped Away

by Nick Sclafani, the Nugg Doctor.com

Game one of the Western Conference Finals was a battle of epic proportions. Like two rams slamming each other dizzy, the Nuggets and the Lakers kept squaring off in a test of wills before Denver fumbled control after leading for a majority of the fourth quarter to eventually lose game one, 105-103.

This is a stinging loss because the Nuggets seemingly played the better game and had control of what would had been an incredible start to this series before things spiraled into a one-game to nothing abyss that very few teams have ever been able to emerge out of to win a seven-game series.

The start of this game was a gift to the Nuggets. Denver opened up a, 27-14, lead with Carmelo Anthony one fire. * * *

The Nuggets led by two entering the fourth quarter where they have lost only three times all season when entering the money period with the lead.

Yet while the Nuggets looked in full command throughout the fourth quarter they just could never land that knock out blow to put the Lakers on the canvas. And there's a lot of credit to be placed on the Lakers for not folding when they were down by as many as seven midway through the final quarter. Maybe it's having Kobe Bryant on the team, or Phil Jackson on the bench, or having just fought through a seven-game series with Houston, but L.A. never seemed rattled in front of the star studded crowd at Staples Center.

With 30 second remaining in regulation, Denver's final chance to pocket game one of the Western Conference Finals was sunk by Trevor Ariza stealing Anthony Carter's inbounds pass with the Nuggets trailing by two.

It's easy to want to pin this loss on AC when all he had to do was call timeout and head back to the drawing board for such a crucial possession, but this game wasn't lost on that untimely miscue.

Bluntly stated: Kobe stole the show. * * *

 

(5)

Lakers edge Nuggets: Kobe's 40 points lead way

by Daniel Williams, Denver Daily News

Carmelo Anthony was awesome last night for the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals in Los Angeles.

But Kobe Bryant was better and virtually unstoppable in the Lakers' 105-103 win yesterday at the Staples Center.

Denver got off to a fast start, led by nine quick Anthony points, giving Denver an early 14-6 lead.

All five Nuggets starters scored in the game's opening five minutes, and Denver pushed their lead to 27-14.

Anthony had 16 first-quarter points and Denver led 31-22 after one.

But it's Kobe Bryant's house, and he was going to show why he is one of the most complete players in the NBA.
Led by Bryant, the Lakers erased a 13-point Nuggets lead in the second quarter. * * *

In the game's final six minutes, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets 23-14 and went up by four points in the game's final seconds.

A late Anthony Carter turnover all but crushed the Nuggets chances, but a huge three pointer by Billups with .6 seconds left made it 103-102, and gave the Nuggets one last breath.

Down one, the Nuggets were forced to foul Bryant, who hit his free throws and sealed the 105-103 win.

Anthony went for 39 points, six rebounds and five assists, but Bryant's 40 points, six rebounds and four assists made him the star of the Lake Show.

Gasol's 13 points and 14 rebounds helped the Lakers to the win by out rebounding the Nuggets 46-36.

Kenyon Martin and Nene combined for 29 points on the night, but also combined for only 13 total rebounds. * * *

 

(6)

Disheartened

posted by "Docc06" to Nuggets Talk message board

Man, I'm not particularly all that upset that we lost, but I am just disheartened because I thought we played outstanding. I just don't know if we can match that same type of efficiency from Melo.

K mart, I thought, played a great offensive game. Nene was his usual self. I mean, we got some of the best games out of our best players, and we still lost. I just have this disheartening feeling that we just can't beat these guys.

Kobe just fucks our entire defense up. He gets the ball, and everything is thrown out the window. Leaving Fisher open for 3. Leaving Ariza open for 3. I just don't think we have the skillset at the 2 position to stop this teams motor.

I know Chauncey, JR, and Bird all had pretty bad offensive nights, but I think Melo negates all of those statlines with his outstanding game.

This just disheartens me. I thought we played one of our best possible games, and we still lost. That just sucks as a fan. I hope we can expect the same from Melo, and get Chauncey, JR, and Bird goin, but I'm a bit skeptical that that can happen. It just sucks.

Not to be all negative fellas. I loved our play tonight. I just think it may not be enough against this team. * * *

 

(7)

Game 1: Nuggets 103 - Lakers 105

by Nate Timmons, Pickaxe and Roll

I know this loss sucked, but believe me there is a silver screen and roll lining in it. As you were watching this game, how many times did you say to yourself, "Wow, the Nuggets are better than the Lakers!" I'm setting the over/under at 5 ...

So, I survived the jellyfish stings my friends! Otherwise this recap would not be possible as I promised to end myself Seven Pounds style if the Lakers were given open threes. I can think of two threes that hurt the most and they were both Derek Fisher daggers. The first, to end the first half (55-54 Lakers) and again late in the fourth quarter (again with KMart closing out on him waaay to late) to make it 97-96 Lakers. Those 6 points proved to be the difference last night and were both mirror images of one another ... fool me once ... you know the rest.

You have to decide right now if you are a 20% person or if you are an 80% person. ESPN flashed the stat that the team who wins game one in the conference finals, goes on to win the series roughly 80% of the time.

If Denver would have come out like last season and lost the opening game 128-114 then I'd be an 80% person for sure. But Denver made a ton of mistakes last night and only lost the game by two points. So, count me among the 20% variety. * * *

 

(8)

Lining up to take the blame at the line

by Chris Dempsey and Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post

LOS ANGELES - Free throws were a problem Tuesday night for the Nuggets. A big problem. So much so, the team members said had they been better from the line, where they shot just 65 percent, they probably would have won the game.

"I think we lost the game with our poor free-throw shooting throughout the game from everybody," guard Chauncey Billups said. "We missed 12 free throws. It comes back. We lose by two points. It's tough."

No Nuggets player was immune. Even Billups, normally one of the NBA's best free- throw shooters, missed three in a row at one point. The Nuggets were 23-of-35 for the game. Meanwhile, the Lakers made 20-of-24 attempts (83 percent).

"We can't do that against this team," guard J.R. Smith said. "They made theirs. We can't do that." *  *  *

 

J.R. hyperextends knee.

After missing his final free throw and fighting for the rebound, guard J.R. Smith hyperextended his knee. The injury was listed as a right knee sprain, and he will be re-evaluated today.

After the game, Smith said he was "OK." * * *

 

(9)

No Doubt Nugs are for Real

by Mike Littwin, Denver Post

LOS ANGELES - Let's get some things straight. It's late as I write this. And maybe you've had a sleepless night when you read this.

But there are some things we should agree on. Yes, the Nuggets lost Game 1. Yes, they had the lead for most of the game. Yes, the Nuggets are a team well past moral victories at this point. And yes, the Nuggets have lost 11 consecutive playoff games, over many years, to the Lakers.

But these Nuggets are for real. These Nuggets, in fact, are not like any Nuggets team you've seen recently, or maybe ever.

So, given what we agree on, what do we make of the Nuggets' 105-103 loss to the Lakers in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series?

Well, it depends entirely on your world view — or your ability to make free throws, which the Nuggets could do only occasionally.

The Nuggets played even with the Lakers, and maybe better than the Lakers, certainly (until the end) tougher than the Lakers, and, for much of the game, as big as the much bigger Lakers. Have you ever seen any Nuggets team play this hard? * * *

If you watched the game Tuesday, you were sure, for about 40-plus minutes, that you had seen the world change before your eyes. The Nuggets - the same Nuggets you've been following for so many years - were about to throw down the Lakers and toss away a franchise's worth of bad karma, and then, well, they didn't. * * *

 

(10)

2009 Western Conference Finals Game 1: Denver Nuggets 103 - Los Angeles Lakers 105

by Jeremy, Roundball Mining Co.

For the first time in the postseason the Denver Nuggets trail in a series. There are two ways to look at tonight's 105-103 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers. Either Denver proved that they can hang with the Lakers and good things are ahead or the Nuggets proved that even when Carmelo plays what may have been the best game of his career and Denver outplays the Lakers for a vast majority of the game they still cannot win in Los Angeles.

There is some pretty good evidence to support both sides of the argument.

In the Nuggets' favor if there was any question that Denver was going to be a match for Los Angeles, the debate is over. Denver is playing at a much higher level than they did at any time during the regular season. There were a couple of points in the game where the regular season version of the Nuggets would have fallen apart and been knocked out early.

On the other hand, this game set up perfectly for Denver. They got out to a quick lead to build their confidence. Andrew Bynum was in foul trouble for most of the night. Carmelo played an absolutely incredible game and they had a lead late in the proceedings. It is difficult to imagine Denver having as good of a chance to win in Los Angeles as they did tonight. * * *

 

(11)

Nuggets losers. Could have easily won.

by Butterfield, The Chris Andersen Files

Any one of these easy efforts gets us a win:

  • Hit 75% our free throws. We shot 65% from the stripe.
  • Andersen wins the jump ball at 1:00 left.
  • Kenyon avoids an absolutely moronic foul at 30.5 remaining
  • Carter keeps his composure on the in-bounds play at 29.1.

Such a missed opportunity. Bummed.

Carmelo was as good as I've ever seen on the defensive end.

 

(12)

Umm, Coach Karl, why is that little guy inbounding the ball?

by Joe Tone, Westword.com

I said it first, but ESPN Sports Guy Bill Simmons probably said it best last night, questioning aloud on Twitter why Anthony Carter, the Nuggets' shortest player on the floor, was impounding the ball with his team down two and just seconds to go:

"How to Blow a Huge Game by George Karl," Chapter 23: "Have My Shortest Guy Inbound the Ball On the Biggest Possession Of the Game."

The result, of course: With six-eleven Lamar Odom smothering him, Carter threw a floating pass to Chauncey Billups that was picked off Trevor Ariza and left the Nuggets down by four. But hey: At least we know Karl learned his lesson. On the next possession, Kenyon Martin was the inbounder.

 

(13)

Reasons to be Cheerful after the Nuggets Game 1 Loss to the Lakers

by Michael Roberts, Westword.com

The Los Angeles Lakers' 105-103 victory over the Nuggets last night was frustrating for longtime Nuggets observers to witness for several important reasons. * * *

So, given all that, why do I continue to feel optimistic about the Nuggets' chances. Three simple reasons:

1. The Nuggets proved that they can hang with the Lakers in the Staples Center, where they've collapsed so often in recent years that it's a wonder they haven't replaced their bench with a fainting couch. There was never any doubt that the Nugs belonged in the finals, nor the slightest sign of a confidence collapse, in stark contrast to their most recent playoff matchup with the Lake Show.

2. Carmelo was incredible. Instead of disappearing, as he's frequently done during the playoffs in previous seasons, he thrived in the spotlight.

3. Much of the supporting cast had a subpar outing, yet the team had plenty of chances to win anyhow. Scoring more than 100 points with J.R. Smith contributing only eight points and both Chauncey Billups and Nenê winding up south of twenty should worry the hell out of the Lakers, whose own defense hardly seemed impenetrable.

Going into game one, I felt that a Nuggets' loss wouldn't be catastrophic as long as they kept things close, and they most certainly did that. The same goes for game two. If they win, great. If they don't, they clearly have the swagger necessary to win the next two at home. * * *

 

The Bottom Line:

1. Awwwwww, shit!

2. Our Nuggets had them on the ropes and let them get away... Missed Free Throws and George Karl putting Anthony Carter into a bad situation, where he did badly, was the margin of difference.

3. Nuggets have the tools to win, but it is very disheartening to have lost that particular game.

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