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Game 3 Recap — The View from Denver...

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One thing that I've learned over the last two years frequenting the Live Game Threads at Blazers Edge and Mavericks Moneyball is that the losing games for the "good guys" are ugly places.

Anger percolates and rage explodes. The cast of the hero team are doused with catcalls, criticism, and condemnations to hell for their perceived athletic trangressions and general incompetence. The mental capacity of the coach is brought into question about player substitutions and game tactics. Referees are attacked for missed calls and sundry delusional blunders. The League Office is blamed for hiring such blame-worthy nincompoops and foisting them off as "professional referees."

And on and on it goes...

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There's nothing wrong with all that, really. Sure, some of the smile-button wearing, Ned Flanders-inspired "happy fans" have a hard time with all the acerbic acrimony leveled at one's "own" team — but they might as well complain about the tides of the sea. It's human nature: we want our favorites to win, and when they come up short, we automatically blame the errors of the "weak links" on that team or various external forces conspiring against their success, like our "stupid" coach or the "incompetent" referees.

Every game has a winner and a loser. No team yet has gone 82-0 through the regular season and swept the playoffs. The team we treasure, whichever that may be, is gonna lose some games. We as fans all know this on an intellectual level, of course — but in the heat of game action, who cares about intellectualizing things? Game threads are visceral: HOW COULD THAT DUMBASS MAKE THAT TURNOVER? and WHO IS PAYING THESE MORON REFS TO MISS THAT CALL?

The reason I bring all this up in the context of the Lakers' come-from-behind victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals is simple. The Lakers lost that game. The big black cloud hung over the SS&R game thread all night long. It was unmistakable that Team Purple was going to lose.

The Lakers got beat in the First Quarter, 28-26, after being down 8 points and looking lame. "It's almost comical," Bluetrek acutely observed.

They were getting beat at halftime, 52-48. "Down by 4 and playing like crap," Weazel appropriately remarked at the time.

The Lakers' Money Quarter, the Third, was even worse, with the home team Nuggets extending their lead to 79-71. "Have I ever seen such terrible officiating...?" asked The Boss of no one in particular.

But for all the bleak disquiet about the Lakeshow's performance and prospects, there's one quote that trumped all of these:


"We're not the best road team in the NBA for no reason."

—Kobe Bryant

I understood this remark for the first time last night.

The answer was in #24's eyes after he hit a big shot to shut up the crowd.

Kobe Bryant REALLY, REALLY likes playing on the road.

Forty-one points for Mr. Mamba and the Lakers triumphed over a team that got a tight sphincter in the end. (Ha ha, I slay myself!)

Don't believe me? Take a look at the Popcorn Machine LINK for a clear visual representation of Denver's Game 3 debacle...

I'll bet they're not liking this one so much in the Mile High City, eh?

Let's find out...

(More stuff after the jump...)

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(1)

Lakers Defeat Nuggets in Game 3: Denver blows 79-71 lead entering final quarter, botches another inbounds pass

by Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post

He's just different. Kobe Bryant stood at the free-throw line Saturday - "couldn't feel my legs," he would say - but heard the Pepsi Center fans chanting "Ko-be sucks!" and he remembered who he is - and what the moment was.

He's just different.

Bryant swished a dagger 3-pointer to give the Lakers a late lead, then finished the game off at the free-throw line, feeding off the Pepsi Center silence. He admitted it was "a better feeling than hearing the roar of the (home) crowd."

In the Lakers' 103-97 Game 3 victory, Bryant was the Rich Gossage of closers, giving the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals with 41 points. He swiped back home-court advantage like he was Trevor Ariza or something.

"I rank this right up there with some of the biggest road wins," Bryant said.
As for Ariza, he's becoming basketball's Bernie Madoff. For the second time in three games, Ariza stole a Nuggets inbounds pass in the final seconds. This one came with L.A. "text/javascript" src="http://www.sbnation.com/javascripts/vendor/tiny_mce_3_0_7/themes/advanced/langs/en.js?v=307"> // --> up by two points with about 37 seconds left.

Kenyon Martin tried to inbound the ball near the Lakers' bench to Carmelo Anthony, but he was guarded by Lamar Odom. Just like Anthony Carter's pass in Game 1, Martin's was lofted, and stolen by Ariza. This time, the pass was thrown too far toward half court from Anthony's reach, and Ariza tipped it to himself.

"I don't necessarily think it's Odom," Martin said. "I think Ariza does an excellent job at not letting guys get a body on him (in picks). He's long and athletic."

Anthony grabbed Ariza — Melo's sixth foul — and he glumly slumped in his chair on the bench, watching the game unravel for Denver.

"It was kind of deja vu," Anthony said. * * *

 

(2)

Bryant's 41 Make Loud Statement

by Woody Paige, Denver Post

* * *
Kobe is not the most-liked person in Colorado, for a variety of reasons, and his popularity took another hit here Saturday night as he put another hurt on the Nuggets in this Western Conference finals.

He hushed the crowd.

What else is old?

Bryant gutted in a 3-pointer with 1:09 left to give the Lakers the lead for good . . . er, bad . . . then made 5-of-6 free throws as the Nuggets lost momentum... *  *  *

Bryant was very softspoken in the opening quarter, with only two baskets. The longer the game went, the louder he got.

As he sank the trey and heard nothing, "that was a great feeling," Bryant said. "It's a much better feeling actually than being at home and hearing the roar of the crowd. You enjoy it a lot more because everyone is against you. Everybody's wanting you to lose. And when you hit a shot like and everybody goes quiet, it feels good. It feels real good."

The sounds of silence. Hello, darkness, Nuggets. * * *

 

(3)

Ariza Cements Role as Scene Stealer: Lakers forward stops Nuggets again by picking their pocket on errant inbounds pass in final seconds

by John Henderson, Denver Post

If the Los Angeles Lakers truly are Hollywood, Trevor Ariza would be a B-list celebrity. He'd be the bit player giving straight lines to Jack Nicholson. You might recognize Ariza sipping a latte at a Beverly Hills sidewalk cafe, but you probably wouldn't remember his name. Nor would you care.

Yet this supporting cast member, arguably more than red-carpet player Kobe Bryant, is the reason L.A. leads the Western Conference finals 2-1.

Ariza's steal of an inbounds pass in the final minute, his second in the Lakers' two victories, was the key moment in L.A.'s 103-97 win Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, a victory that knocked the air out of a team and a city.

"That changed the complexity of that game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Not to mention this series.

Denver had blown a 79-71 lead but trailed only 97-95 and had the ball out of bounds with 37.1 seconds left. Kenyon Martin couldn't find a soul open while being guarded by the 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom and, unlike Anthony Carter, who threw it and Game 1 away Tuesday, Martin called time.

It didn't matter.

After the timeout, Martin floated a pass toward Carmelo Anthony that was soft and off target. Ariza tipped the ball and was racing for it when Anthony grabbed his arm. Ariza's two free throws all but wrapped up the game.

"It was kind of funny," Ariza said. "It was pretty much the same thing. A different player on the ball. We got the steal and the win. That's the important thing." * * *

 

(4)

Out with the Inbounding Plays

by Dave Krieger, Denver Post

Let's start with the obvious: The Nuggets need a new sideline inbounds play, or they need to learn to execute the ones they have. Preferably before Lakers forward Trevor Ariza gets a hat trick.

There were other factors in their two losses in the Western Conference finals so far, but inbounding the ball to Ariza in the final minute was the signature play of Games 1 and 3. *  *  *

"I wanted Melo at the top," coach George Karl said. "Chauncey (Billups) is usually an outlet, but we went with Melo. Both plays, if you watch it, they're open. And then the pressure on the ball . . ."

After Game 1, Karl took the blame for having diminutive Anthony Carter trying to inbound to Billups. Blanketed by the much taller Lamar Odom, he lobbed it over Odom's outstretched arms, giving Ariza time to cut in front of Billups and pick it off.

So, in Game 3, Karl replaced Carter with 6-foot-9 Kenyon Martin. And exactly the same thing happened. Martin threw a one-hand pass wide of Anthony, trying to get it past the 6-foot-10 Odom. Ariza merely had to step forward to grab his second game-turning interception in three games.

"He's long, he's athletic and he has eyes behind his ears," Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said of Odom.

"Lamar is being super-active, jumping, and they are panicking and not getting the play open," Lakers center Andrew Bynum said.

"I don't think he was panicked," Odom said. "I think it's tough. You're on the sideline, you've got somebody that's 6-10, 6-9 with a long wingspan, it's a hard pass to make."

When I asked Karl afterward if he needed a new inbounds play, he replied, "We have plenty of plays." When I asked if he would address the issue today at practice, he said, "We'll probably talk about it." * * *

 

(5)

Melo Fizzles after Fast Start

by Chris Dempsey, Denver Post

Carmelo Anthony sat in the Nuggets locker room an hour after Game 3, leaning forward in a black leather chair, cellphone pressed to his ear.

It was a very Clark Kent-esque scene from player who had played so much like Superman until Saturday night.

Even the greatest of stars have bad nights at the office, and Anthony's third Western Conference finals game went from good to bad to worse. A game that started off with the appearance of another 30-point effort fizzled fast for Anthony in a bevy of missed shots.

After a first quarter in which he scored 14 points, Anthony's night went as such: four points in the second quarter, zero points in the third quarter and three points in the fourth quarter. * * *

"Other than physically beat him up better than they did in the first two games . . . They were more aware of him, two people in front of him, more body contact with him," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "We've had Melo being our horse for about seven straight games now, and tonight he had it going in the first quarter but never really regrouped it."

The Lakers generally agreed with that assessment.

"A couple of jump shots were contested," Jackson said. "He had a pretty good first half, but in the second, obviously, he didn't play a lot of minutes because of foul trouble. But I did think our identification was better on when he was going to be coming, the picks he was going to be coming off, where he wants the ball, some of those things." * * *

 

(6)

F

by Johnny Domenico, Nuggets' Nuggetz

I kept thinking that the shooting was bound to come along.

It didn't.

I knew the bench would come through, but I didn't know they would be the only ones to come through.

Frustrating night tonight, but the good news is that I don't believe the Nuggets will shoot worse from the perimiter than they did tonight.

If it weren't for the dunks and layups the Nuggets would have only made 14 shots tonight. 14!

There were a few games in the Dallas series where the Nuggets couldn't find their stroke, but instead of continuing to jack up 3's and long 2's, they attacked the rim and got to the Free Throw Line.

As disappointed as I am, I'm looking forward to a big time bounce back game on Monday. There's no way Melo, Chauncey and JR all shoot that poorly two games in a row at home.

That's it for now.

 

(7)

We're not THIS good...

by Andrew, Denver Stiffs.com

There's no question that the Nuggets have improved vastly as the regular season and postseason have moved along.

But they're not this good.

What I mean by that statement is that the Nuggets might be good enough to weather a 41-point game from Kobe Bryant.

And they might be good enough to miss 22 (mostly good) three-point shots and still pull out a W. And they might be good enough to steal a victory despite getting shafted by the referees throughout the second half.

And they might be good enough to overcome Carmelo Anthony scoring an embarrassingly low three points in the second half, after posting 18 in the first.

And heck, they might even be good to enough to survive a multitude of bad decisions by George Karl (namely his inability to draw up a simple in-bounds pass play for the second time in three games and his bizarre insistence on keeping Anthony Carter in the game rather than Dahntay Jones alongside Chauncey Billups even when Kobe is on the @#$%& court!!).

But they're not good enough to overcome all those deficiencies and beat a 65-win Lakers team (although they're pretty damn close, the Nuggets only lost by six after all...thanks mostly to a great defensive effort until the referees whistled them out of the game). * * *

 

(8)

An Unimaginably Poor Performace on All Fronts

by Butterfield, The Chris Andersen Files

Players — C-

Coaches — D

Fans — C-

 

(9)

Hard Fought Battle

posted by "Ace5720" to Nuggets Talk message board

Hard fought battle, but Nuggets lost the game because of woeful 3 point shooting. 5-27 from the 3 point line will lose you a lot of games. It seemed like they forced a lot of 3's rather than passing the ball and letting them come naturally.

The Nuggets just did not seem to be in offensive rhythm most of the game.

 

(10)

Random Rants

posted by "Anon" to Nuggets Talk message board

Random rants:

  • On Chauncey's 3's in transition: I used to hate them but I now don't really have a problem with them because he often takes them when he is way ahead of the rest of our team and so if he misses, we're already back on defense. And despite tonight, it is actually a fairly high percentage shot for him, when he is in rhythm. We just had a horrible 3-point shooting night in general.
  • Karl needs to stop with this idea of "Kobe-stopper AC". And how can you take two timeouts and still lose the ball on the inbounds!? We had plenty of time.
  • Many of the three point shots were decent looks. We just could not knock them down. It's funny how it seems so much of our good ball movement tonight ended up in decent 3-point looks... how about some ball movement to get a good shot inside? Or more post offense?
  • Melo needs to move down low more and stop dribbling so much in traffic. He seems to dribble into traffic and either get stripped or plays a bit out of control.

 

(11)

Game 3: Nuggets 97 - Lakers 103

by Nate Timmons, Pickaxe and Roll

* * *
Live by the three ... die by the three. 5-27 ... 18.5%. The Nuggets chose to keep launching threes and went away from attacking the rim last night and it cost them the game. Melo, J.R., and Billups combined to go 5-24 from distance. I was hoping at some point that Denver would get back to attacking, but it just never happened.

The Lakers did what they needed to do and hung around the entire game until it was time to make a move. L.A. found themselves down 79-71 going into the deciding quarter and they outscored Denver 32-18 to finish the game.

Denver only gave up one 30 point quarter last night, but it was in the crucial fourth. Every one of these games has come down to execution in the final minutes and the Lakers deserve the 2-1 lead as they have out-executed Denver in two of the three final periods.

 

(12)

Nuggets Still Can't Inbounds the Ball, Lose Game 3

by Brian, Nugg Love

Four days later, but it looked like the same game.

The Nuggets were able to get up early but could not hit the shots to put them over the hump to stretch an 8 point lead into a 15 point lead like they had in the earlier rounds. Carmelo Anthony got off to a great start, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Nene was hitting his 17 ft. jump shot with ease and Chris Andersen was throwing down emphatic dunks. Birdman was also playing solid defense on Pau Gasol not letting him use his spin move which was so effective in game 2.

This had all the makings for a Nuggets victory, and then the 4th quarter started.

The Nuggets had a 79-71 lead going into this quarter thanks to a JR Smith desperation 3 to end the 3rd. Of course George Karl, with his infinite wisdom decided to go with Anthony Carter, Chauncey Billups, Linas Kleiza, Chris Andersen, and JR Smith. The lineup that baffles Nuggets fans to no end is when Anthony Carter and Chauncey Billups are in the game together. Within 5 minutes, a clutch Trevor Ariza 3 pointer had given the Lakers their first lead since 7 minutes left in the 1st quarter to cap a 10-1 run. This run was made possible because of the Nuggets' many missed layups and dumb turnovers.

The teams traded baskets up until 37 seconds left in the game. In almost the exact same situation, the Nuggets were going to inbounds the ball and try to get to the basket quick going for a 2 for 1. Of course after the backlash Karl got from letting the tiny Anthony Carter try to inbounds it against the 6′11″ Lamar Odom in game 1, he put in a much taller Kenyon Martin to take the ball out. After not being able to find an open man, Kenyon did the best thing he could and called a time out.

Surely they'd be able to draw up something that could get the ball in this time. After a 20 second time out, Kenyon was still throwing the ball in, and the play looked exactly the same as the play that didn't work in game 1. Right on cue, Ariza had another steal and a chance to seal the game with a couple of free throws. He went to the line and calmly hit 2 clutch free throws with the entire city of Denver screaming at him. Game Over.

The Nuggets didn't lose this game because of their 3 point shooting (although it was horrendous, 5-27), they didn't lose it because of officiating (although Karl seemed to think so with 45 Laker attempts), and they didn't even lose it because of the lack of an inbounds play. The reason the Nuggets lost was because Carmelo Anthony dissapeared after the 1st quarter and the Nuggets didn't have Melo confident in the 4th. The Nuggets were able to scrap and find ways to score in the 2nd and 3rd but the 4th quarter is a totally different story. * * *

 

** A D D E N D A **

(13)

Lakers Steal Game 3, Take 2-1 Series Lead

by Mike Wolf, Denver Nuggets Examiner

As George Karl strode to the podium for his pre-game address to the media before Saturday night's critical Game 3, there was a bounce to his step. Could it have been the music he was listening to all day?

"The White Album," said Karl, when asked what was on his Ipod that afternoon. "Some crazy songs on that album."
The game was no less bizarre. Another Nuggets-controlled game, another blown out of bounds pass stolen by Trevor Ariza - this time with Kenyon Martin in-bounding the ball - has Nuggets fans feeling Charles Manson-crazy right about now.

"It was pretty much the same thing with different players involved," said Ariza matter-of-factly after the game.

Maybe that whole Zen thing actually works.

The Lakers' 103-97 victory gives them homecourt advantage once again.

With an abrasive crowd determined to drown out all the Lakers fans in the building, and Rocky (not a Raccoon, but still) the mascot climbing on the roof of the building at one point, a frenzied game turned serious in the final minutes as the Black Mamba's venom sucked the life out of the the team and the crowd. As chants of "Kobe Sucks!" rained down from the rafters throughout the fourth quarter, Bryant looked tired, though he had plenty left to hit some HUGE shots. His Jordan-esque fadeaway and contested off-balance three with one minute left were two of the most impressive shots of his playoff career.

"It actually helped," Bryant said of the chants from the crowd. "I couldn't feel my legs." * * *

 

(14)

Nuggets Snake Bit in Game Three

by Nick Sclafani, The NuggDoctor

(Denver-CO) The Los Angeles Lakers have two snakes on their team and both bit the Nuggets in game three's, 103-97, loss last night at the Pepsi Center. The Black Mamba scored 41 points for the Lakers, including eight of L.A.'s final ten points to seal the victory, and Trevor "The Bush Viper" Ariza ambushed another inbounds pass with under a minute remaining with Denver down by two to poison any chance the Nuggets had to pull out a victory.

DAMN.

Can somebody please tell me why Chauncey Billups doesn't run right to the inbounder so Denver can make a three-foot pass to get the ball inbounds?

Holy Moses, Mary Mother of God, and sweet baby Jesus! * * *

All of Denver's luck ran out in the fourth with the Nuggets missing their first nine shots of the quarter. Denver finally scored a field goal on Martin's dunk with 6:34 left, but the flush came after L.A. was able to regain their first lead, 83-81, since, 12-11, in the first quarter. Trevor Ariza and Chauncey Billups traded three's, Kobe and J.R. Smith traded jumpers, and free-throws were exchanged as the lead seesawed for the next four of the five minutes remaining in regulation.

Down by two with 37 seconds to play, Kenyon Martin set to take the ball out of bounds after the Nuggets had advanced the possession to half court with a 20-second timeout. K-Mart was unable to make a safe inbounds pass and was forced to use another 20-second timeout to draw up yet another play to get the ball in for a crucial Denver possession.

Once again, with Lamar Odom on the ball, Denver failed to get the ball in, but what's more puzzling about this attempt in game three compared to game one's debacle is how the inbounds pass wasn't even to Chauncey Billups. Instead, Kenyon threw a terrible lob towards mid court to Carmelo Anthony (who in all fairness did exactly what he should have done by running right towards Kenyon to receive what should have been a three-foot pass) allowing Trevor Ariza to once again ambush the errant pass for the steal. Carmelo was forced to foul Ariza and by doing so ended a frustrating second half by fouling out.

Ariza made both free-throw to extend L.A.'s lead to four and the Nuggets were reduced to fouling and watching in agony as the Lakers had no problem getting the ball to their best free-throw shooter, Kobe Bryant, and the Mamba iced the game with another four freebies. * * *

 

(15)

Denver Post Game 3 Interviews Compilation (Karl, Kobe, Melo)


 

The Bottom Line:

1. Trevor Ariza steals a critical inbounds pass to stab the dagger... AGAIN?!?!? That makes two times in three games that this has happened. This is on Coach George Karl all the way. That should not occur even once, let alone twice, at this level of basketball...

2. The main story was too many Nugget 3 pointers jacked up on a night when they were not falling. The refs certainly did not help Denver's cause either...

3. After being the big stallion for so many games in a row, Carmelo Anthony was merely mortal tonight. And with him, the Nuggets died in Game 3.