November 21, Denver Nuggets (8-4) vs Los Angeles Lakers (9-1)
The first question that needs to be answered is did Denver add by subtracting Allen Iverson? Clearly.
But the next equation is… is the addition of Chauncey Billups enough to make them one of the truly elite in the Western Conference?
Jury’s still out on that one.
They lost their best defensive presence in Marcus Camby, and yes, Nene is playing some damn fine ‘ball… but relying on a guy who’s spent more time in rehab than on hardwood for the past few years?
Denver spent the entire off-season focusing on defense, and adding a defensive-minded Billups and minusing the more-than-slightly defense-challenged Iverson really adds a bit more bite to what was one of the weakest defensive units in the West. Clearly, they’re better defensively.
But losing a player with the ability to put up points like Allen Iverson? That has to hurt!
Well… not entirely. Denver have the pieces to put up a big score, Melo can easily drop a cool 40+ on any team in the league – and it’s not like they call Billups “Mr Bigshot” for his passing ability – but Billups definitely is more of an ‘enabler’ than Iverson ever has been.
I really like the way this Denver unit is beginning to look. They have some nice pieces in Kleiza and Smith… and amazingly K-Mart is still putting up relatively good numbers.
But… can they beat the Lakeshow on their own turf?
LA are rolling, the three-headed monster of Gasol/Bynum/Odom is increasingly difficult to stop. Kenyon Martin and Nene are going to have their hands full with that threesome – 2 on the court at all times. Everything’s hunky-dory.
And with the coasting finish over Phoenix yesterday, Kobe’s playing less than 35 minutes per. It’s over a decade since #24 played so little – you have to go back to ’97-98 to find Bryant averaging less playing time. His second season.
There are more than half a dozen players on this squad that could light up for 20+. The depth that the Lakers possess is hard to look past. Just ask Terry Porter’s Suns, who couldn’t keep Bryant on the court for the 4th quarter.
The final score of 105-92 flattered Phoenix, who really didn’t look like they were in the game from pretty much the second quarter on. Shaq looked decent enough, but the slowed down game clearly isn’t sitting well with the Suns, who at times looked lost and disjointed.
Anyway, back on tomorrow’s game…
Whilst I think that the Lakers could open with a more dynamic line-up if they’d insert Ariza rather than Radmanovic, or even Vujacic (and run Kobe at the 3), it’s hard to argue with what Phil’s doing when they’re 9-1.
Denver are good, but they’re not that good. LA by 11.