The Lakers go into tonight’s game in the “Mile High City” coming off of a terrible loss on Friday night. This is the fourth game of the first round series and the Lakers remain on top with a 2-1 lead over the Nuggets. The Lakers showed little urgency, intensity and passion on Friday night from start to finish, which Denver took every advantage of. The Lakers played very sloppy in Game 3, earning 15 turnovers, which led to problems such as fast break points and a weak transition defense that they were unable to overcome. The Lakers will try to get back on track and steal a game on the road tonight before heading back to Los Angeles. What are the keys to accomplishing this?
Keys to a Lakers Victory:
Clean Up the Glass
In Game 3 the Lakers were out-rebounded by the Nuggets 54-44. This is unacceptable and inexcusable considering the Lakers have two seven-footers who happened to be among the league’s leaders in rebounding during the regular season. In fact, the Lakers only had one player, Andrew Bynum, reach double-digits in rebounding. More importantly, the Lakers gave up 19 offensive rebounds, which led to giving up 17 second chance points.
The Lakers were out-rebounded and lost the offensive glass battle in Game 2 as well. Losing the board battle for the Lakers is a sign of their style of approach to the game. When failing to clean up the glass, they show that they are playing with little urgency and passion. Bynum, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill especially need to use their bodies and skills to box out, get in position and beat the Nuggets to the glass. There is no excuse for Kenneth Faried to beat out any of the Lakers bigs in rebounding. Cleaning up the boards will limit the Nugget’s second chance opportunities and help control the tempo.
Keep It a Half Court Game
Controlling the tempo or pace of the game is essential for the Lakers especially against the Nuggets. In Game 1 and in parts of Game 2, the Lakers were able to dictate the tempo of the game, which led to victories. Denver is a team built around speed, the fast break and transition offense. In Game 3, there is no question that Denver was able to play their game at their pace. The Lakers’ transition defense completely broke down and they were unable to catch-up to the Nuggets.
On Friday, the Nuggets scored 20 fast break points, compared to six points by the Lakers. In fact, the Nuggets’ ability to break into great transition offense allowed them to beat the Lakers in points in the paint by a large margin, 52-32. The Lakers have more than the necessary tools and resources to beat the Nuggets. However, the Lakers need to force the Nuggets to play a half court game to avoid making this a long series. When the Nuggets are forced to execute a half court offense, the Lakers can set their defense and utilize their length and size advantage.
Play With a “Win or Go Home” Attitude
Consistency has been a problem facing the Lakers for the entire season – we are all aware of that. However, this is the playoffs and the “win or go home” mentality must be the forefront of the Lakers’ approach. Game 3 was frustrating for the fans to watch, as their attitude and body language reflected their stats on the scoreboard. As I said during the game on Friday, the Lakers already know what they need to do to win. It just becomes a matter of execution.
When the Lakers play with intensity, urgency and passion, things start to click and they become almost unstoppable. This especially holds true for the Lakers’ frontcourt. Denver simply cannot match Bynum or Gasol, but on Friday they were able to pick them apart. Why? Their mentality. Denver came out swinging and the Lakers let them. The attitude and approach the Lakers choose to adopt will determine their success not only in this series, but in the remainder of the playoffs as well. Therefore, it is definitely time to play with a “Win or Go Home” attitude.
Game 1: Nuggets 88, Lakers 103
Game 2: Nuggets 100, Lakers 104
Game 3: Lakers 84, Nuggets 99
Game 4, First Round, Western Conference
Los Angeles Lakers (2-1) at Denver Nuggets (1-2)
May 6, 2012 6:30 PM PST
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
TV: KCAL, TNT
Radio: 710 AM (English) 1330 AM (Spanish)
Nuggets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Timofey Mosgov
Key Reserves: G Andre Miller, F Corey Brewer, C JaVale McGee, PF Al Harrington