There are games which are in doubt and there are games which are never in doubt. The 4th frame of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets was firmly ensconced in the latter category.
The Lakers came out slow, stabilized in the 2nd Quarter, and then promptly belly-flopped in the 2nd Half, losing by 19 big ones. Coming into this contest in a position to put their opponents down and virtually out on their home floor, the purple-clad visitors tanked like a Wall Street penny stock on a very Black Monday.
The Popcorn Machine LINK tells the grim tale as dramatically as Edgar Allen Poe. After leading 1-0, the Lakers were never on top again — pulling to within 4 points before being sliced, diced, chopped, and flash-frozen by a pack of hyperkinetic Billy Mazes with prison tats... The Lakers were out-shot and out-fought, out-rebounded and out-hustled...
It was, quite frankly, not their best effort.
Carmelo Anthony didn't even need to show up for this felony-assault-level tushie-whomping, truth be told. The Nuggets' superstar was under the weather to start with, twisted his ankle to add injury to influenza, and generally couldn't hit the fat side of a school bus with a 12-gauge of birdshot. Melo shot just 3/16 from the field, racking up 9 of his 15 points from the Free Throw line.
There were plenty of others on the Denver squad more adept with firearms, however.
I'm sure the Friends of the Blue Crew are all eating, drinking, and making very merry over this canning of the troop from Tinseltown... Let's drop by to partake of their words of mirth, bitter though the experience may be...
(More stuff after the jump...)
by Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post
Indeed, there was a WWE-style smackdown at Pepsi Center on Monday.
While World Wrestling Entertainment took its show to Staples Center, the Nuggets put on a showcase of physical force at Pepsi Center, slamming the Lakers, 120-101, to tie the Western Conference Finals at 2-2 and take the momentun into Game 5 in Los Angeles Wednesday.
Denver took the lead with its first basket and never gave it up, expanding it from 7 points at the half to 11 points after three quarters.
The Nuggets' work in the paint was sensational, along with the all-round game of backup guard J. R. Smith, who scored 24 points. Denver outrebounded L.A., 58-40.
Nuggets big men Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen were lively, angry, and wily. They kept plays alive with their hustle and made huge shots to keep the offense going when outside shots weren't falling early.
Martin finished with 15 boards, Andersen 14 and Nene 13.
The big night from the big men helped offset an off-night from forward Carmelo Anthony, who played through pain and sickness. Melo's right ankle bothered him after he tweaked it in the first half. He had it re-taped at halftime. Before the game, an under-the-weather Anthony was vomiting in the locker room restroom. He received IV fluids at halftime.
As for Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' superstar scored 34 points but Denver burst out to such a big lead in the fourth period that he wasn't a factor late. With 3:54 left in the third, Bryant got into a shouting match with an official after Dahtnay Jones tripped him at the offensive end. No foul was called. * * *
by David Ramsey, Colorado Springs Gazette
DENVER • Here's how coach George Karl can ride to the NBA Finals:
Ban knucklehead behavior. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for all the whining and pointless violence that inspires technical fouls.
The Denver Nuggets dazzled the basketball nation Monday with their 120-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
They roared back from Saturday's collapse. They can, despite facing two trips to Los Angeles, win this series.
Yes, they can.
If Karl can halt the on-court anarchy.
"I think we'll make a point of it," Karl said in a quiet hallway outside his team's locker room. "I think we'll stop it."
He sounded serious, which is good. This is a serious problem.
The Nuggets have collected nine technical fouls — on six players — during this series. They've collected six technical fouls in the past two games.
This is a recipe for defeat. The Nuggets are trying to conquer Phil Jackson, one of the greatest coaches in any sport, and Kobe Bryant, one of history's top two or three shooting guards.
They can't afford the luxury of emotional outbursts. They can't afford to alienate officials, who are sensitive souls.
So far, refs have treated Denver with astonishing respect. Don't believe me? Consider this: The Nuggets have shot more free throws than the Lakers in three of four games.
Colorado fans had reason to expect a conspiracy to land L.A. — with the nation's second largest TV market — in the NBA Finals.
You can lay any conspiracy theories to rest. The whistles have been more than fair. * * *
by Brian Gomez, Colorado Springs Gazette
DENVER - An injured Carmelo Anthony wasn't anywhere near his best, while an energized Kobe Bryant and a relentless Pau Gasol again lit up the scoreboard.
It was a certain recipe for disaster for the Denver Nuggets, a major detour on the road to the NBA Finals, a sobering dose of reality in a city bleeding powder blue.
Kenyon Martin picked up the slack in the first half before Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith took charge in the second Monday as the Nuggets topped the Lakers 120-101 at Pepsi Center to even their Western Conference finals series at two games apiece.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Los Angeles. Game 6 is Friday in Denver.
Martin contributed 13 points and 15 rebounds, including 11 points in the first half, when the Nuggets persevered through a slow start by Anthony, who missed his first 10 shots and sprained his right ankle.
Smith and Billups scored 24 apiece, helping Denver grab a 77-66 third-quarter lead and beat the Lakers at home in the playoffs for the first time in eight games. * * *
by Nick Sclafani, The Nugg Doctor
(Denver-CO) It's a brand new best of three series, Nuggets Nation. The Nuggets were able to demolish the Lakers, 120-101, in the first blowout in the NBA Conference Finals to pull the series even 2-2 headed back to the City of Angels. Denver's bench finally showed up just in time as Carmelo Anthony fell ill with a stomach issue to give the Nuggets a 42-point boost in the biggest must-win game in franchise history.
In the first quarter, the Nuggets opened up with very uniform production with their starting five. All five Nuggets scored on alternating possessions after Kenyon Martin got the Pepsi Center juiced with the first four points for Denver. It was obvious that Kenyon was feeling both a spring in his step and a sense of urgency to establish the Nuggets interior scoring presence. The Blue Light Special scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter, and his added offensive boost was imperative as it was revealed shortly after the opening tip that Carmelo Anthony, who missed his first eight field goals of the first quarter, was battling a stomach virus. * * *
The Nuggets continued to massacre the Lakers on the boards in the second half as J.R. Smith as six other Nuggets finished in double figures offensively. I hate to cut short my analysis, but it really was just that simple in Denver's win in game four. Kenyon Martin (15), Chris Andersen (14), and Nene (13) led the way for Denver to finish with 58 total rebounds falling just four short of the franchise record for rebounds in a playoff game.
J.R. and Chauncey each scored a team-high 24 points and Nene and Kenyon Martin offered double-doubles with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Carmelo Anthony did manage to score ten points in the second half to finish with 15 points and five assists, but did so on 3-16 from the field. Linas Kleiza's ten points and Dahntay Jones' dozen rounded things out for the Nuggets offensively. * * *
by Andrew, Denver Stiffs.com
A WWE-worthy beat down took place at Pepsi Center on Monday night after all. But instead of it featuring Vince McMahon and his 'roided up side show, it featured the most complete Nuggets performance we've seen thus far in this Western Conference Finals. * * *
With the Nuggets posting 120 points on the board and beating the Lakers soundly by 19 in spite of an off night from Carmelo Anthony, it's becoming objectively clear that the Nuggets are the better team in this series. Now if they could just stay out of their own way and avoid unnecessary technical fouls, silly regular fouls, a few curious rotation decisions from the coach and rushed three-point shots, their franchise's first appearance in the NBA Finals can be theirs by Saturday morning.
They can do this.
This game was won handily for a lot of reasons, but the primary reason was what I call "tip rebounds." I don't how this translated on TV, but from my seat where I get to watch the Nuggets play defense closely in the first half and offense closely in the second half, all I saw were countless tipped balls to close by teammates on the Nuggets way to an outstanding 58-40 rebound average. Whether head coach George Karl made this a point of emphasis leading up to the game or the Nuggets players instinctively figured it out, by tipping the ball rather than trying to corral a rebound against a significantly taller player completely altered the course of the game. The Lakers frontline should be embarrassed.
The second biggest factor, of course, was the "One Man Comeback" (as Chris Marlowe astutely calls him) J.R. Smith. Nothing gives me as a fan more confidence than knowing that the Nuggets can win with either Melo or J.R. having a big night offensively - i.e. we don't need them both firing on all cylinders at the same time to secure a win. But what happens when, for the first time, both Melo and J.R. put together a big offensive night? If this happens Wednesday, look for the Nuggets to come back to Pepsi Center on Friday night up 3-2. * * *
by Mike Wolf, Denver Nuggets Examiner
On a day when those who fought hardest were memorialized, the Denver Nuggets decided to give their fans a break. No more nail-biting, whiskey-shooting, blood-pressure-medicating, late-night fretting fourth quarters. At least not tonight. Any late-game drinks were cracked open slowly — sipped not slurped — and enjoyed as the last few minutes of Denver's 120-101 series-tying Game 4 victory played out.
No matter what happened throughout the first half (Kobe Bryant had 18 points so all was not completely well) this was yet another game where it seemed like the Nuggets. Had. Control. A 7-point halftime lead stretched to 14 by the end of the third quarter. The game seemed to be out of reach throughout the fourth quarter. That's exactly why Nuggets fans were worried.
Meanwhile, Altitude's broadcast on Mile High Sports Radio's AM 1510 ... uncovered another instance in which Chauncey Billups' playoff experience trumped everything else for the Nuggets.
According to courtside reporter Jason Kosmicki, during a fourth-quarter timeout Nuggets coach George Karl began imploring his team to start double-teaming the Lakers' bigs in the paint. During the huddle Chauncey quickly pointed out that with the Nuggets holding a double digit lead, defending the three-ball was suddenly much too important to risk giving the Lakers open shots as a result of double-teaming inside.
Karl reconsidered, the Nuggets reverted back to single coverage and a recount of the Coach of the Year voting turned up a ballot with Chauncey Billups' name in the number one spot. It wasn't me, either.
As the Nuggets prepare for goin' back to Cali, they do so as a completely different team. Coming into Game 3, all the talk was centered (rightfully so) on Carmelo, Billups and Denver's homecourt crazies. Now they've shown that they can be a well-rounded, deep team capable of beating Los Angeles in multiple ways. * * *
by Daniel Williams, Denver Daily News
It was either tie the series up at 2-2 and take over the momentum in the series or go down 3-1, essentially ending their season.
The Denver Nuggets chose to extend their season with their 120-101 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals yesterday at the Pepsi Center.
Denver came out with extreme effort in the first quarter and got off to a quick start and early lead, which they sustained the entire night.
Denver's first half defense limited the Lakers — with the exception of Kobe Bryant — from ever getting in a grove offensively.
Bryant, however, had 19 first-half points and looked to be on his way to another huge scoring night.
The Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony played with a stomach problem and a leg injury, which hindered his scoring and eventually his minutes later in the game.
Anthony barely played in the third quarter and headed to the locker room to start the fourth quarter, but later came out in the fourth — even though he was in obvious pain.
But after Denver's defense limited Bryant to only two third-quarter points, Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith picked up the scoring slack for Anthony en route to a second half eruption. The Nuggets controlled the offensive boards with the help of Chris "Birdman" Andersen's 13 rebounds, which was the difference for Denver in the outcome. * * *
posted by "Ruru Revenge" to Nuggets Talk message board
* * *
We severly outplayed LA in game 1 — lost becuase of Kobe bail-out and inexperience mistakes.
We didn't show-up the first 18 minutes of game 2 and yet still won — despite a very good Kobe 4th.
We lost game 3 — one of our worst shooting games of the season — including multiple blown transition plays. And Kobe bailing the Lakers out in the 4th.
We had a blow out in game 4 despite a horrible offensive game from Melo - and survived another excellent 4th quarter from Bryant.
Any nuetral observer can see that:
1) We are much more physical inside (and we should have known that before).
2) We are more athletic.
3) We play far superior defense.
4) We can initiate the offense from multiple points, whereas the Lakers lack direction and versatility in how they begin offense and playmake.
We are the better passing team, the stronger team, the quicker team, the more sefless team, cover much more ground defensively and we are more alert. And sometime hopefully, we will show we are the better shooting team.
The Lakers biggest advantage, their length is negated by those things. Most teams are scared of the Lakers.
We are the better team there is no doubt and we should be up 3-1 ready to close it out.
by Dave Krieger, Denver Post
As Phil Jackson squinted across the hardwood from his high chair on the Lakers' bench Monday night, you could imagine him asking his trusty assistant, Frank Hamblen, the Butch Cassidy question:
"Who are those guys?"
Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets' answer to Kobe Bryant, was missing in action, and yet his mates were dismantling the West's top seed and pulling even through four games of the conference finals.
It is about as unlikely a cast of heroes as you could have imagined eight months ago when this shindig got started:
- J.R. Smith, the crazy-athletic, crazy- long-range and sometimes just plain crazy big guard, coming off the bench to share team scoring honors with Chauncey Billups. * * *
- Chris Andersen, his career in shambles after being "dismissed and disqualified" from the NBA in 2006, coming off the bench to grab 14 rebounds, more than any Laker. * * *
- Kenyon Martin, rapped as overpaid and overrated for most of the past five years, grabbing a game-high 15 boards and scoring nine first-quarter points while Anthony was going 0-for-8.
- Nene, whose last name might as well have been "$60 million contract" over the past three years, grabbing 13 boards and playing a little point-center with a game-high six assists. * * *
- Linas Kleiza, having regressed his way out of the playing rotation by the end of the season, scoring 10 points in 13 minutes off the bench to help take up Melo's scoring slack.
Karl has said the story of the '09 Nuggets is a tale of redemption for about half the team. He includes himself in this group. In fact, it may be more than half. * * *
by Jim Anderson, Denver Post
* * *
Nice bench. The Lakers would have been better off with Jack Nicholson coming off the pine. . . .
"We're deep," Lamar Odom said post-Game 4. "The strength of our team is our depth." Not so much this time. Your final score from the "Yes We" Can: Lakers' bench 24, J.R. Smith 24. . . .
The Lakers' bench shot 5-for-27. Sound familiar? That's what the Nuggets were from beyond the arc in Game 3. . . .
Smith, post-shootaround Monday morning, when asked how he expected to play after his Game 3 meltdown: "I expect to play great. I expect to do what I'm supposed to do - shoot the ball and get to the free-throw line." . . . * * *
by Woody Paige, Denver Post
The Nuggets are playing hard ball.
Denver Brutes, Bruisers & Bullies.
Call 'em what you want, Lakers, Mavericks and Hornets, but The Tough Guys won't back down and did step up — again — Monday night. Got raw, if you like.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson accused the Nuggets of "unsportsmanlike conduct" afterward. Whew, them's fighting words.
Two-two, and no tutus in the Western Conference finals.
A late inbounds pass wasn't necessary, or intercepted, in Game 4. The Nuggets were behind 1-0 at the start of Game 4 but never trailed again in winning before a record, delirious crowd of 20,037 Thugnuts.
Sick and tired. Melo was sick, and Kobe looks tired.
But the Nuggets are hanging even with the Lakers by virtue of being the aggressors and the attackers, the scamps and the scoundrels, the rogues and the ruffians.
Flagrant foul? Sure thing. Technical foul. Why not? Trip Kobe, push Kobe, body slam Kobe? By all means. * * *
by Chris Dempsey, Denver Post
The Nuggets officially called it dehydration.
But when Carmelo Anthony was vomiting before the game and taking an IV at halftime, he was feeling more than just dehydrated. And those around him could plainly see something more was wrong with him.
"I saw it on his face," Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin said. "I told him, 'Just give us what you got and we'll pick up the rest.' "
Said Rex Chapman, Nuggets vice president of player personnel: "It was significant. And our doctors did a terrific job. They were really pulling out all the stops trying to get him settled."
All that was at stake was the Nuggets' postseason life. They entered Game 4 down 2-1 in the series, and a loss would have sent them back to Los Angeles in a considerable hole.
On a personal note, Anthony had scored 20 or more points in the 12 games previous to Monday night. He did not reach that mark in Game 4.
What the Nuggets star did do was gut the game out. Adding injury to insult, in the second quarter he twisted his right ankle, which needed to be retaped at halftime.
Anthony had missed his first 10 shots from the field before making a dunk in the second quarter. It was one of just three shots Anthony made. He finished 3-of-16 from the field, but he made 9-of-11 free throws to tally 15 points.
He scored eight points in the fourth quarter as the Nuggets pulled away. * * *
by The Denver Post
* * *
For as hot as Lakers guard Kobe Bryant got after Dahntay Jones tripped him late in the third quarter, after the game the Lakers' star seemed to content to not to make an issue of it. And Jones was playing coy.
After the play, in which it looked like Jones intentionally stuck out his foot, Bryant went after the refs and drew heavy boos from the Pepsi Center crowd.
When asked if he got tripped, Bryant said: "No, I just fell on my face for no reason. I'm a klutz."
When asked if Jones played him dirty, Bryant responded, "Good defense." He had a sarcastic smile when he said it.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson took offense to Jones' action. "Just unacceptable defense, tripping guys and playing unsportsmanlike basketball," he said.
Said Jones, "I don't remember the play exactly, but I know we were out there on defense and things happen."
Jones said he wasn't bothered by Jackson calling him dirty.
"Just playing hard," Jones said. "If he can't respect it, I'm sorry." * * *
by Lindsay H. Jones, Denver Post
Sure, it can be infuriating at times to be J.R. Smith's coach or his teammate.
But with the way Smith played Monday night, when he scored 24 points in the Nuggets' 120-101 win against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, he proved the association can be sweet, too.
After scoring just 21 points through the first three games of this series, Smith exploded for nine points in the second quarter and 12 in the fourth, and he eclipsed his previous scoring total for the postseason by three by the time the final horn sounded.
"Fortunately, for me, I've got great teammates and coaches who want to stay in the gym with me, work on my game and converse with me on what I'm doing wrong," Smith said. "And it was a tough time, but fortunately I'm out of it."
Smith, who came off the bench to play 28 minutes, 26 seconds, made four 3-pointers, and had four assists and two steals.
"I think it was just making plays for my teammates, not just looking for myself and my own shot, but penetrating, getting to the basket and looking for people," Smith said.
But here's the frustrating part: Smith was called for a technical foul — his third of the playoffs and second in this series — and committed three turnovers.
"Forgiving turnovers and mistakes when you have a big lead and the technicals, those are things we've got to grow up and get by," coach George Karl said. "I think his talent and his skill is flamboyant, explosive." * * *
by Anthony Cotton, Denver Post
Already extremely cramped, the Los Angeles Lakers found the visiting locker room at the Pepsi Center a decidedly smaller space Monday night after the Nuggets' 120-101 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
"There's so much angst when you lose a game," guard Derek Fisher said. "It's interesting how certain words come out — 'Are you embarrassed? Did you quit?''Sometimes you just lose."
But after three games that basically went to the final minute, it was the way that the Lakers fell Monday that had the players roiling amid the drama.
Center Andrew Bynum had perhaps his best game of the series, scoring 14 points and making 6-of-7 shots. The difference between Monday night's effort and the previous three contests?
"I got the ball tonight."
Similarly, Pau Gasol had 21, making 8-of-11 shots. But, like Bynum, the veteran felt that effort really wasn't maximized — which in turn, led to a case of something that seemed strangely akin to jealousy.
"I wish we would take more advantage of the inside; I think we're pretty effective when we do that," Gasol said. "It's too bad we don't recognize it enough — they're attacking the rim on every possession; they attack, attack, attack and we tend to settle too much." * * *
by Karen Auge, Denver Post
They needed this one.
And, boy, did they get it.
Not a last-second, free-throw-decided, eeked-out win, either. This was a solid, 19-point, fist-pumping victory that the Pepsi Center crowd celebrated with towel waving, foot-stomping, scream-'til-you're-hoarse enthusiasm. Just in case Kobe and his purple gang failed to get the message: The Lakers didn't have this series sewn up.
Not by a long shot.
"This is the biggest game in Nuggets' history" was the assessment of Littleton fan Joslyn Brough on Monday night, no doubt speaking for about 20,000 others in the room.
Arguably, the little kid suited up in the No. 7 jersey, the Nuggets sweatband, the blue and yellow socks and the blue Nuggets shorts needed it just as much as the big guys on the court. Ditto the brothers in the Melo's Yellow section, the lifelong fan from Littleton and so many others.
They needed a Game 4 win in the NBA Western Conference finals, tying the series at two games apiece, to keep on believing, to breathe a little easier as they send their beloved team back out West, to make this Memorial Day memorable indeed. * * *
by Nate Timmons, Pickaxe and Roll
The Denver Nuggets just won the biggest game in their franchise history. Yes, Game 5 against Seattle was great in 1994, but it was not the Western Conference Finals. So now Game 5 in this series becomes the biggest game in Nuggets' history.
It's getting interesting right?
Had the Lakers won last night's game they would have had a strangle-hold on the series. The Nuggets however, refused to lose and an inspired team effort was the story of Game 4.
The Nuggets trailed 1-0 to start the game, but when Kenyon Martin made a 17-foot jumper he gave Denver the lead for good as the Nuggets wouldn't trail again.
Seven Denver Nuggets scored in double-digits and all the points were needed as Carmelo Anthony wasn't finding his shot early. We found out that Melo was battling a stomach flu and received an IV at the half ... gutty performance. Melo did not record his first field goal until the one minute mark of the 2nd Quarter when J.R. Smith found Melo for an easy dunk giving the Nuggets a 50-42 lead.
J.R. did a great job of finding his teammates open dunks early and found his shot late to ceal the win for Denver. It's been key for somebody to step up and last night J.R. took his turn.
Denver had great energy last night and it showed up on the stat sheet. The Nuggets outrebounded the Lakers 58-40 (20 offensive rebounds) as Birdman, Nene, and KMart were all over the place protecting the rim and getting Denver extra possessions. Denver's bench also outscored the Lakers' bench 42-24. Like Renaldo Balkman's leg tattoos say, "Hustle ... Harder."
Denver continues to play with confidence against L.A. and they find themselves in a position to prove that while they may not have the best player in this series, they do have the better team. That's the best thing about basketball ... it's truly a team sport and the Nuggets to me look like the better team in this series. * * *
by Jeremy, Roundball Mining Co.
Carmelo Anthony has had a fantastic postseason, but I may have been a little premature to declare him to be up to the challenge of hanging toe to toe with Kobe Bryant over a seven game series. While Melo has struggled in both home games, game three with foul trouble and game four with stomach and ankle issues, the Nuggets still managed to win one game, ensuring at least one more postseason tilt will take place at the Pepsi Center.
With Carmelo not playing up to par there was no shortage of Nuggets standing in line to make up for his limited production. Offensively Chauncey fought off another slow start to have a big second half, J.R. Smith finally had a big scoring night and Linas Kleiza had another impressive night off the bench.
Despite the impressive play of those three the real story was the Nuggets' domination of the paint. I covered this angle for the Daily Dime (relegated to number nine today) so I will not go into it too much here, but suffice it to say the Nuggets bigs have gone from getting absolutely smoked on the glass in game one, to dueling the Lakers' bigs to a draw in games two and three to completely owning the boards on both ends of the floor in game four. The fact that the Lakers have only outclassed the Nuggets on the boards in one game so far is a big deal.
It cannot be overstated how well Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen were. They outrebounded the Lakers 42-40 all by themselves. For only the second time all season the Nuggets collected 20 offensive rebounds, they had a season high 25 in game 68 against the Nets. * * *
by Michael Roberts, Westword.com
To be a fan of the Denver Nuggets — even the new, improved Denver Nuggets — is to risk cardiac arrest on an all-too-regular basis.
Saturday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers would have put the Nugs in a commanding position, and they seemed to have everything going for them — momentum, swagger and a mammoth home-court advantage thanks to an absolutely berserk crowd thrilled to be witnessing the first Western Conference Finals game to take place here in a generation.
So how did they respond? By blowing yet another fourth-quarter lead and making enormously embarrassing gaffes down the stretch — including yet another botched in-bounds play at a key moment. Who says lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice?
Last night, in contrast, the Nuggets had plenty of excuses to collapse, including the condition of Carmelo Anthony, who spent much of his pre-game warm-up time barfing. But this time around, the supporting cast stepped up in a huge way, particularly when it came to rebounding.
Over and over again, players made good on second-chance opportunities, helping them to not only maintain a fourth-quarter advantage, but to actually build on it. Of course, Phil Jackson's inexplicable decision to sit Kobe Bryant until 6:44 remained on the clock provided a nice assist. Yet the Nugs would have won the game had Kobe never taken a seat. * * *
by Brian, NuggLove.com
The atmosphere outside was rainy and depressing but once inside, the Pepsi Center was rocking like never before.
This was the most important game in Denver Nuggets history, and the Nuggets came to play.
For the 2nd time in as many playoff series, a stomach virus had gotten to a player on the Nuggets. This time it wasn't a 20 minute per game spark plug, but a bona fide superstar, Carmelo Anthony.
If this wasn't bad enough, in the 1st half he also sprained his ankle. Carmelo Anthony finished with a dreadful 15 points on 3-16 shooting. He didn't add anything with his passing or defense either. Fortunately for Denver fans, every other Nuggets player stepped up in his absence. * * *
All in all, the Nuggets finished with 7 players scoring in double figures and 23 assists overall. They still couldn't find their range from the 3-point line until late in the 4th, but only committed 6 TOs in the entire game. This is coming from a team that earlier in the year would amass that in only a quarter.
As for the Los Angeles Lakers, I think everyone but Kobe and Pau had already left for home.
Pau was money from down low. Even with some good defense by K-Mart and Nene, he was making everything from his spin move off the board to his baby hook shot, to his reverse layup?!!? He also was controlling on the defensive end getting 3 blocks and 10 rebounds.
Kobe was his usual Kobe self. Despite being booed every time he touched the ball, and the fans chanting things such as "Kobe Sucks" and "No Means No", he was able to get his 34 points on 10-26 shooting (2-10 from 3-pt), 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Even with this great line, Kobe had a few choice words about the game:
"They kicked our ass, they whooped us, they played better, period."
It looks like Bynum is still in Phil Jackson's doghouse for not playing defense. He started the game, went 6-7 from the field and 2-3 from the line, but only played 23 minutes. Phil, if you want to win this series, Bynum will need to be a bigger part of the rotation. He provides mismatches in the paint playing alongside Pau. * * *
posted by "Newsman35" to Nuggets Talk message board
I can finally see it. If you were to build a team to beat LA, you would structure it around the backcourt. Stock up on solid sharpshooters, killers at the 3, and solid backcourt defenders, because not only is LA's defense softer there, but it also forces Kobe to play both sides of the ball, which lowers his effectiveness on offense.
Interestingly, Denver is structured to play directly into LA's team strength which is in challenging their front court — and they're doing it effectively. The only difference has been that it allows Kobe to focus more on the offensive end, where he is really pounding the Nuggets. It does demonstrate what a difference-maker Kobe is, but also shows that Denver really can match the Lakers at their best.
This is really a fascinating dynamic because we will see whether 1 man can beat a team that is otherwise playing better than the other team.
The other X factor is whether a team playing good can beat a smart because Denver is clearly playing better than LA, but LA is a smarter team. If I have to place bets, I put my money on the team over the individual, though the issue of smart versus good has been a draw to this point.
Hopefully Denver can incorporate a bit more intelligence into their last two games and they're good to go!
The Bottom Line:
1. This was a massive game and the Nuggets needed a big win to regain momentum in the series — and they got it.
2. Denver has won two games and blown two others — they could have been sipping cool beverages in the clubhouse already if they caught a few breaks.
3. Nuggets are better than the Lakers, aren't afraid of the Lakers, and are going to beat the Lakers in this series.