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Post Game Thread: Lakers Make a Statement Against Denver

I'm still trying to figure out what that statement is. Maybe it's "We're bipolar", as Kobe so succinctly put it last season.

Or maybe it's an actual statement, in the form of Pau Gasol's post game interview on radio: "We wanted to show them that they won't have a chance against us". (Thanks to Kevin Ding's Tweet)

Really? Because it didn't seem like it initially, as the Nuggets dominated the Lakers in the first half. It was a tale of two halves, as it frequently is for the Lakers. They played sloppy basketball, turned the ball over, and looked like they were going to mail this one in as Denver finished the half by 9 points and in control of the game.

In the first half, the Lakers missed Derek Fisher's tangibles, as he picked up two quick fouls, taking him out of the game. Pau and Bynum were also saddled with foul trouble. ABC's commentators asked why the Lakers weren't taking advantage of their height. It's hard to do that when your height isn't on the floor. Add this to poor offensive spacing in the first half, and you get a bunch of turnovers and no ball movement on offense.

The only constant in the game was Ron Artest's stellar defense on Carmelo Anthony. He harassed Melo into 8 turnovers, and fouled him out on an iffy offensive foul, but one that was more understandable after ABC showed the play from the ref's vantage point.

Another bright spot in the first half was the play of Josh Powell, who was active on the board, and had good spacing on offense. Because he would move to the open spot, Powell was the beneficiary of good passes from Kobe that led to scoring opportunities.

As for Kobe, he struggled mightily with his shot, as Denver sent hard doubles at him. The only time in the first half he was able to exploit those doubles was when Powell or Odom would find the seams and made themselves available.

That all changed in the second half, as the Lakers made the needed adjustments against Denver's defense. The Lakers came out blazing, going on a 10-2 run, driven by two Derek Fisher threes, coming within three of the Nuggets. But that turned out to be a false start, as the Nuggets answered back, pushing their lead back to 11. I have to admit, it looked at that point that the Lakers had given the Nuggets their best shot, and Denver had withstood it. I was wrong.

After that point, the Lakers corrected their spacing, and Kobe directed the players masterfully into scoring position. Yes Kobe shot an abysmal 3-17, due to excellent defense by Aaron Afflalo, but in the second half he basically took control of the offense. This type of performance is what separates Kobe from other great scorers like a Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant - he can score in bunches, but he also orchestrates the offense to exploit a defense's weaknesses. You can see him barking out to players exactly where to cut, to the point where it would seem obvious to the defense, but even still, the player would move to that spot and the pass would come, and Kobe would have another assist. As Phil Jackson explained at one timeout, the Lakers had "more of an idea of what they wanted to do" as opposed to "playing in a fog". If you don't have a clear strategy, you are fixin' to fail.

Lamar Odom though, should get the game ball for this one. As is custom, when teams are bottling up the Lakers main offensive options, Odom should be able to make a big impact, and he did in this game, finding open spots, blocking shots, and getting rebounds. He's not always there when you call, but he's always on time, and Odom was Lamar-on-the-spot today, with 20 points, 4 steals and 12 rebounds. He's had a knack for making critical buckets lately, and today was no exception. He made a game tying three at the start of the fourth, and another ridiculous running bank shot later, which he only threw up because he thought he was fouled. Update: Upon further reflection, I'm going to give the offensive game ball to Odom, and the defensive game ball to Artest, in keeping with American football tradition.

There was an interesting moment near the end of game when Phil Jackson substituted Bynum for Gasol, after Pau had his shot blocked on a close-range atttempt. Pau seemed to get the message when he came back, grabbing big boards, and playing solid defense.

Speaking of defense, Aaron Afflalo deserves credit for his good defense, but Artest deserves even more, as Artest did his damage while only picking up 3 fouls, and Afflalo was hit for 5 fouls, limiting his effectiveness, as he had to come out of the game. This defensive performance validates reports that Artest was hampered by injuries the last few times he faced Denver. I would a healthy Artest to be more of a factor against Lebron James defensively, if the two were to meet again in the postseason.

Somewhere, J.R. Smith is saying "See? I told you, Kobe is great, but not against me!". Kobe responded to that bit of braggadocio after the game, "He"s one of my young boys. I don't take that real seriously. Look at the track record." (Again, thank you Kevin Ding. That guy is good)

It's only one regular season win, but you're still allowed to enjoy it, so feel good and discuss - until the next time the Lakers play (against the Pacers on Tuesday, in L.A.).

Here are the stats from today's victory. If you scan them carefully, you may find some nuggets of wisdom.











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