Before the playoffs, George Karl said the Nuggets would go as far as Ty Lawson could take them.
In Game 1 against the Lakers, Lawson got into the lane only to find the long arms of Andrew Bynum there to block and alter shots. Lawson went 3-for-11 shooting with two assists. As a team the Nuggets shot 35.6 percent. Bynum had 10 blocks as part of a triple-double, Pau Gasol had a good game and outplayed Kenneth Faried, and the Lakers cruised to a 1-0 series lead.
Yes, Kobe Bryant had 31 points. Kobe is going to get his. If the Nuggets are going to change this series it will be because Lawson and the Nuggets have learned to adapt to the Lakers size. The ball is in their court to make the adjustments for Game 2, because the Lakers are not getting any smaller. Complain about the Lakers defense all you want
Two things the Nuggets need to do to have a chance in Game 2:
First, drive and kick. Lawson needs to still get in the paint, as does Andre Miller, but when they do and Bynum or Gasol greets them they need to kick out to Danilo Gallinari or Arron Afflalo in the corner. Or dump off to JaVale McGee who has cut baseline to the hoop when his man rotated. Move the ball. If you just try to shoot over Bynum it will be a long day. The Lakers love isolations against them and Denver ran too many of them.
Second is transition points — Denver got only 12 percent of its opportunities in Game 1 running, and they shot 5-for-8 when they did. They are the more athletic team, they need to take advantage of it.
Which means getting stops. The Lakers had an offensive efficiency of 109.6 (points per 100 possessions) in Game 1. For some comparison, the Spurs had the most efficient offence in the league last season at 108.5. The Lakers averaged 103.3 for the season. When you are taking the ball out of the net you are less effective running.
Expect Denver to do some of these things. Expect a better game from Lawson, Faried and Afflalo. It is possible McGee shows up, but who knows.
It feels like this will be a close game. But in a close game at the end, the Lakers still have Kobe and they have size in the paint, the Nuggets have youth. Sometimes youth is served. But it’s hard to see it being served four times in the next six games.