The Los Angeles Lakers were unable to extend their series lead to 3-0 on Tuesday after they were outplayed by the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Ride into the danger zone
The Lakers weren’t able to play the Nuggets man-to-man on Tuesday because the Nuggets just played more physically than the Lakers did on both ends of the floor. With the types of athletes that they have on their roster, that’s hardly surprising.
In an attempt to rectify that, the Lakers switched to a zone defense late in the fourth quarter and it worked for them. The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 31-21 in the fourth quarter.
That’s not to say the Lakers shouldn’t try to match the Nuggets’ aggression in Game 3, but if they find themselves in a hole again, that’s a defensive look they could turn to.
Frank Vogel needs to keep bending
Narratives help make basketball fun.
Bubble Kuz was the story of the first round and Playoff Rondo was the breakout star in the second. Unfortunately, in the last two games, Playoff Rondo and Bubble Kuz were nowhere to be found — just regular ol’ Rondo and Kuzma.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it should change the way Vogel goes about his rotations, and it hasn’t in the last two games. Now, are their situations fluid? Of course they are! Just look at the impact Rondo had in the Lakers’ fourth quarter run in Game 3!
The problem is that their situations aren’t being treated like they are. Kuzma played crunch time minutes in a game he didn’t play well in. Rondo was a game-low -13 in the box score. That’s a problem.
The Nuggets are really good
If anyone’s still underrating the Nuggets, they should stop now. The only reason this series isn’t 2-1 in Denver’s favor is because Anthony Davis hit a miraculous shot to give the Lakers the win in Game 2.
The Lakers might be the better team, but they haven’t looked like it since Game 1. If they’re going to come out of this series on top, they’re going to need to play with as much desperation as the Nuggets, because Denver didn’t get here on accident.