A 19 to nothing run spanning the first and second quarters proved too hard for the Lakers to overcome in Game 3 of this first round series. The Lakers fought back to make a game of it in the final quarter, but a deep Denver squad had all the answers. Ty Lawson once again exposed the Lakers Achilles’ heel; a complete inadequacy to defend quick point guards, as his 25 points figured prominently in building the insurmountable lead. Lawson scored or assisted on 14 of the 19 points in the game deciding early run.
Kobe Bryant had been particularly protective of possession in the first two games with just three total turnovers, but the Nuggets pressured him into coughing the ball up six times in Game three. They also forced Bryant into a horrid shooting night (7/23fg’s), mostly by frustrating him with different defenders (Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer both spent time on him) and different defensive schemes.
On the Nuggets side there were plenty of heroes tonight but most deserving of praise were obviously Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. Faried was infectious with his seemingly limitless energy, which saw him be a pest defensively and secure 15 rebounds. Similarly McGee grabbed 15 boards but also came up big with four blocks and many disruptions. He also showed some very nice post moves, and a few really ugly ones that still happened to go in, on his way to 16 points. The only real downside for the Nuggets was the presence of McGee’s mother who sat in the second row, glared at everyone and generally made people feel ill. She’s a spooky lady when riled up.
Positives for the Lakers were harder to come by, but they do exist. The Lakers were able to almost climb out of a 24 point hole, as they pulled the deficeit to 4 points in the third quarter with some solid play behind Bynum. Gasol also appears to have figured out how to mesh with the Bynum as he has taken his game further out on the perimeter.
The key for the Lakers for Game 4 is to match the energy that Denver will provide and find a way to punish the Nuggets when they play both Ty Lawson and Andre Miller at the same time. Similarly, the key for Denver will be to keep that significant advantage of hustle and limit Andrew Bynum’s effectiveness both as a scorer and a rebounder. If the Nuggets can be successful in limiting the Lakers to one shot attempt per possession again, they have a very good chance of taking Game 4 as well.