You might not realize this about me, but I'm a fast learner. I've got a couple junior-high "gifted and talented" classes on my resume, plus I once needed only an afternoon to solve one whole side of a Rubik's Cube, plus parts of another. What can I say? It's cortical skills like mine that are keeping America great and making her economy better than it's ever been ever.
So it should come as little surprise to anyone that only four quarters into the Western Conference Finals, I've got the Denver Nuggets' offseason all figured out. Their road to greatness has revealed itself to me, and I'm going to share it with you here, free of charge. No need to thank me, Mark Warkentien. Just keep me in mind next year when you're collecting your second straight NBA Executive of the Year Award.
Your new master plan goes like this:
- Find a guard who isn't terrible to play alongside Chauncey Billups.
Assuming use of a conventional lineup, there are 96 minutes of playing time per game to be divvied up among a team's guards. In last night's Game One, Billups used 41 of those minutes and played splendidly, as he always seems to do against the Lakers. The remaining 55 minutes were sopped up by the unholy trio of J.R. Smith, Anthony Carter and Dahntay Jones, who befouled Staples Center with the following aggregate line:
Collectively, these guys burned 23 possessions to generate nine points, and threw in eight defensive fouls for good measure. It's a testament to how well the Nuggies played at the other four positions that they managed to absorb this disaster and still lose by only two. I kinda doubt their teammates will be inviting Messrs. Smith, Carter and Jones to join them at the Golden Gopher Wednesday night.
The full Game One numbers, almost as much fun as the premiere episode of Glee, await after the jump....
There were 96 possessions per team tonight. During the regular season, the Nuggets averaged 97.0 possessions per game, the Lakers 96.9. The four previous games between these teams this year averaged 97 possessions per. I sense a theme.
Off Reb Rate
Def Reb Rate
You guys should be proud of me, as it took me only a dozen or so posts to figure out how to cram everything into a table. Told you I was a fast learner! Anyone unclear on the column headings should click here.
Two prominent trends from the regular-season series carried over into Game One. The first concerns the Lakers' shooting against Denver: it continues to be bad. Last night, moreover, it was bad in a weird and interesting way, in that L.A. managed to shoot worse on two-point FGAs (40%) than on three-point FGAs (44%). This, as you might imagine, is highly unusual and doesn't speak well of the ability of the Laker frontline to get clean looks against Denver's fly-swatting maestros.
The other recurring trend involves the Lakers' rebounding, which continues to be phenomenal. In all five games against the Nuggets this year, the Lakers have rebounded at least a third of their own misses; in none of the five games has Denver done the same. Pau Gasol didn't treat us to a classic Gasollian scoring performance, but those 14 boards of his (including six offensive) were crucial to the victory.
The free-throw numbers from Game One were skewed in countervailing directions. The Nugs got to the line far more frequently than did the Lakers, but they missed more than one out of every three attempts. Neither team's fans should be too excited or concerned in this regard, as the stats are likely to regress to more reasonable levels in coming games. On the one hand, the Lakers will definitely get more calls. On the other hand, Billups and Smith won't combine to miss seven FTAs again.
A few additional statlets for your off-day consideration:
- Speaking of things that won't continue, how about Carmelo Anthony and his 83% True Shooting? On 23 shooting possessions, no less, and with only three turnovers. Just magnificent. Denver fans won't want to hear this, but their team wasted what's likely to be Melo's best game of the series.
- Sasha Vujacic is now at 36% True Shooting for the playoffs, and I'm really not sure why he's still getting 15 minutes of run each game. FREE ADAM MORRISON.*
- Kobe could be on the verge of a monstrous series. 59% True Shooting on a third of the Lakers' possessions, and these weren't those crazy difficult, Battier's-hand-in-your-face shots either. He was finding lanes, making space for clear looks and getting to the stripe. His line tonight wasn't flukey.
- Also: only one Mamba turnover. To go along with four assists and six rebounds (three offensive). Ridiculous. Enough to justify two whole bullet-points for himself.
(* = I do not actually wish to free Adam Morrison.)