Answering a few questions after Denver's 115-111 clutch win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the battle for the No. 6 West playoff spot . . .
Nuggets soar to six straight
If you're Nuggets coach George Karl, who would you prefer to draw in the playoffs, the Spurs or Suns?
I saw a quote from Nene saying he wants to play the Suns. Not sure anybody wants to play the Spurs.
Does anybody want the Nuggets right about now?
No. They've improved the defense over this six-game win streak. And their offense allows them to put pressure on the other teams' D. Allen Iverson is so fast with the ball, opposing defenses often don't have a chance to set up. It's such an explosive scoring team with Carmelo Anthony and Iverson.
Do the Nuggets strike you as remarkably fresh, considering we're in the home stretch of an 82-game season?
Yes. The interesting thing about is Nuggets is how rested they seem. Anthony and J.R. Smith had a break with the suspension. Nene missed time with an injury, and Iverson was out for a while he was waiting for the 76ers to deal him. Now they look like a rested team coming into the playoffs, and very confident.
How's this for a line? Marcus Camby: 2 points, 22 rebounds, 7 blocks.
He's probably the best defensive rebounder in the league, in my opinion. Besides Shaq, he's also probably the most intimidating defender.
As Denver's general manager through last season, describe your teams' physical condition heading into the playoffs the last three seasons.
Not healthy at all. We had guys nicked up, guys who were injured. This year, it looks like a very healthy, confident team, and seem to be peaking at the exact right time. Karl looks like a happy camper.
It must be gratifying to see many of the pieces you assembled in Denver seemingly in position to have at least a chance at postseason success.
I like to watch my guys do well.
Still, the Nuggets' remaining road is rough. Four of five on the road, including games at Utah and San Antonio. Not easy, eh?
I don't think it really matters who they're playing. They're playing good D, and you know they're going to score. They're now solidly in sixth place in the West with a 1 ½ game lead, also holding the tiebreaker against the Lakers. I don't think anybody in going to catch the Nuggets now.
But do the Lakers want to catch them? That could mean a date with the Spurs instead of the Suns.
A lot of teams don't want to play San Antonio. It could be a blessing in disguise, but you can never tell.
What do you think Phil Jackson is thinking right about now, his team having lost six of its last eight?
It seems like he might be focusing on his team's interior defense. Andrew Bynum is good but young. Kwame Brown is hurt, and Brian Cook's not the strongest interior defender. Additionally, Smush Parker and Bryant's strengths are playing the passing lanes and funneling guys to the middle. But that's not where you want to send players now. That's why the Lakers look better when they're playing a zone defense.
Any other issue?
Phil's dilemma remains how to use the game's best all-around player in Bryant, who has had to be spectacular for them to win lately. Kobe has to score, but he also has to get his teammates involved. It's a fine line knowing when to pass and when to take control.
Behind these two teams, the Warriors and Clippers are now virtually tied for eighth. Any call there?
ESPN analyst Kiki Vandeweghe averaged 29.4 ppg for the Nuggets in 1983-84. All questions above posed by ESPN.com editor Andrew Ayres.
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Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant hoisted 30 shots, making nine. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony (33 points) and Allen Iverson (24 points) helped the Nuggets to a 115-111 win over the visiting Lakers.
Chad Ford says the international pool of talent is weak this year after watching the Nike Hoop Summit game in Memphis. However, France's Nicolas Batum emerged as a potential lottery pick.
• Spurs starting guard Brent Barry missed his fourth straight game Monday with back spasms and Robert Horry missed his fifth straight game with an abdominal contusion. A date for their return is expected to be announced after practice Tuesday.
• When Knicks reserve Malik Rose entered late in the first quarter, the public address announcer called him "Jalen Rose," causing some confused looks from the Detroit bench. New York waived Jalen Rose in October after buying out his contract and he now plays in Phoenix.
-- The Associated Press
Dallas clinches home court through playoffs
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
After his team's 126-102 win over the Jazz, Baron Davis' Warriors moved into a virtual tie with the Clippers for the eighth and final Western playoffs spot.
Quote of the Day:
-- Andrew Ayres
John (San Antonio): Which WCF matchup would you find more compelling, a run-and-gun showdown between the Mavs and Suns or a rematch of last year's epic 7-game series between the Spurs and Mavs?
John Hollinger: Interesting question. I think the most compelling of all is the series that precedes it, Spurs-Suns, because it's such a contrast in styles. Mavs are something of a medium between the two. But if you held a gun to my head I'd say Mavs-Spurs, just because it was so good last year.
Pete Rose (Cincinnati): Do teams really throw games late in the season to position themselves for more ideal playoff opponents/lottery balls?
John Hollinger: Go find a summary of last year's April games between the Clippers and Grizzlies, or between the T'wolves and Grizzlies, and then decide for yourself. Quick hint: If Vin Baker is starting, or if Mark Madsen attempts more than five 3-pointers in a quarter, then your team is definitely throwing the game.
Larry Harris (Milwaukee, Wis.): I need to make a trade, I'll trade our first rounder and Charlie Villanueva for T.J. Ford. I know he's worth it and it seems every year he's been a starting PG he's taken his team to the playoffs!
John Hollinger: I still think Milwaukee will do well out of that trade, and as I recall Mo Williams didn't do too shabby this year. Unless you're thinking T.J. is the solution to the team's defensive woes this year?
Josh Smith's only 21 years old and he's one of the game's up-and-coming stars, but the concerns about his mental approach might give the Hawks pause this summer when they contemplate how much to award Smith in a contract extension. I mentioned a few days ago that Smith's very strong second half could net him a deal in the $60 million range, but you have to wonder now. Who wants to pay near-max money for a guy who has so many peaks and valleys?
Yao Ming scored a game-high 31 points in Houston's win at Seattle. He was 11-for-11 from the foul line, the second time this season that he was perfect from the line with at least 10 attempts (he was 12-for-12 on November 4). In only one other NBA game this season did a starting center take at least 10 foul shots and make all of them: Mehmet Okur was 10-for-10 on January 3.