Nuggets seek ways to deal with Lakers size in Game 2

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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.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

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Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.