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Down and Out?
by Matt Fargo - 05/21/2009
Down and Out?
The Game One loss was no doubt a tough one for the Nuggets who had the game in their grasp and could have drawn first blood in the Western Conference Finals. Instead the Lakers held serve on their home floor thanks to another heroic effort from Kobe Bryant. The good news for Denver fans is that it looked like the better team despite falling and remains a team that can still steal home court advantage.
â€œWe missed out on a great opportunity to steal this game,â€쳌 said Chauncey Billups. â€œWe're going to continue to fight.â€쳌
The Nuggets are behind for the first time in the postseason, but not lacking confidence after holding the lead for most of Game One. Poor free-throw shooting was the difference as Denver went 23-35 (65.7 percent) from the stripe. The steal near the end of the game sealed it but was hardly the main cause for the setback.
All three of the Nuggets playoff losses have been by two points while their eight wins have been by 19.3 ppg. Denver will be back.
Trendy History Lesson
The Lakers victory in Game One made it 11 straight playoff wins over Denver, which is the fourth longest streak in NBA history. I consider this one of those stats that the media loves to throw out there and make too much of a deal out of. Past history means nothing in the playoffs, especially considering the Nuggets are far from the same team that was swept last season by Los Angeles or any of the other past teams.
Trends like this are often eaten up by bettors and that should not be the case. This is similar to the trend from the Eastern Conference Semifinals showing Boston was 32-0 in its history when leading a playoff series 3-2. Make that 32-1 now. I was on the Celtics in that final game but it was certainly not backed by that historical record.
History tells us the Lakers will sweep this series. Does anyone really believe that will be the case? Here is another meaningless trend. Phil Jackson coached teams that won Game One have a 42-0 series record. Denver might as well just pack it in now then.
ESPN can be a great source for your fantasy stats and NFL breakdowns, but it is not good for these meaningless numbers it throws out.
Melo to the Rescue
In order for the Nuggets to win this series, they need to get the ball in the hands of the right player. Chauncey Billups is the veteran point guard leading this team but the player being referred to is Carmelo Anthony. He had an incredible opening game but disappeared when the team needed him most.
Kobe Bryant took over in the fourth quarter for the Lakers and for Anthony to become part of that elite company, he needs to do the same. He led the Nuggets with 39 points on 14-20 shooting including 4-5 from long range while hitting 7-8 from the free throw line. Yet while Bryant was taking the game over, Anthony did not score in the remaining 3:25 of the game and Denver leading 96-92.
â€œI could have been a little bit more selfish,â€쳌 Anthony said, â€œbut I don't think it came down to that.â€쳌 Yes it did Melo. All night long he took advantage of what the Lakers' defense was allowing him to do but in the clutch, he stayed back.
The NBA wants to see a Bryant versus LeBron NBA Finals. I for one would not mind seeing a LeBron versus Melo NBA Finals, matching up the 1st and 3rd overall picks from the 2003 draft. Either way, Anthony will need to continue scoring and do so late in order for Denver to be able to advance.