Coming off their five-game series win over the Mavericks, the George Karl– led Denver Nuggets were set to face the LA Lakers in the franchise’s first WCF since ’85. Karl’s gameplan for the series was simple, minimize Kobe’s impact and let the other guys beat them.
Our gameplan was control everybody else, put your best defender on Kobe, and hopefully, he won’t shoot the ball well.George Karl, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network
But like with every matchup against top-tier NBA talent, this was easier said than done. Karl tried putting Dahntay Jones on him; it didn’t work. He had JR Smith defending him, that also didn’t work. He even tried Anthony Carter, but a 6-1 guard was no match for The Black Mamba. Upstroke – 34/5.8/5.8 on .481/.344/.931 shooting splits for Bryant and a chance to win his first post-Shaq NBA title after the missed opportunity the year before.
So all the plans about getting the ball out of his hands, all the talk about forcing him into making selfish individual decisions, none of that worked against Kobe and the Lakers. They displayed a great team basketball, with a standout guy being a guy wearing No.24. However, the impact guys like Gasol, Ariza, Odom, Bynum, and Fisher had can’t go unnoticed.
Nevertheless, the Nuggets did put up a great fight. They even had two very winnable games slip through their finger because of poor inbound plays. So I guess that’s why coach Karl has a tough time when remembering this series. The Nuggets really did have a chance to do something historic.
I look back at that series with a lot of heartache because winning a championship would’ve been so special for the city of Denver and for the players.George Karl, 1-on-1 with Basketball Network
It took the Nuggets 12 years to get back into the WCF. It took them 12 years to have a group that is ready to get the organization back into title contention, and Denver fans are hoping that the core of Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray will do something Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and the rest of the 08/09 group couldn’t do – bring the organization its first-ever NBA championship.