It was more than just an odd sequence of plays to end the game, it was a sad end to a tough, physical game. The Nuggets, in the end were done in by poor rebounding, some ill timed (non) foul calls (more on that later) and an absentee shooting guard who seems to have taken the series off.
Nuggets lose Game 3 92-88.
Let's get this out of the way first. Yes, Danilo Gallinari flopped when he was hit on a "pick" by Pau Gasol with a minute to go and in a tie game (Gallo was attempting to guard Kobe Bryant at the top of the key when Gasol set the aforementioned "pick"). However, it seemed to be an illegal screen. Should have been called. It wasn't. Gallo laid on the ground grabbing his nose. I refuse to speculate on whether he was actually seeing stars or not. I believe he was, yet, it's definitely in the eye of the beholder. One thing must be made perfectly clear. This is not the reason the Nuggets lost this game. Gallo was playing excellent defense on Kobe, hitting big time shots (for example the one RIGHT before the illegal screen...errr....pick) and he finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds. He appeared to be the only Nuggets starter who was playing the game at all. My one complaint about Gallo was his three-point shooting. Dude, Gallo, you have to make those. Period.
No, the Nuggets ended up on the losing end of this game because they did a poor job of defending the offensive glass. Giving up 19 offensive rebounds. To compound that, the Nuggets were outrebounded by 10, 48 to 38. Ballgame. There's no excuse for the Nuggets to give up that many boards and second-chance opportunities. It will sink your team - every single time. This, and the Nuggets horrendous three-point shooting percentage (3-19) were the deciding factors in this loss.
Additionally, the Nuggets' starters ... outside of Gallinari were sub-par. Ty Lawson had a good first half and then completely disappeared in the second half. While he finished with 11 points and 6 assists 90% of that was in the first half. Scott Hastings made the observation that Ty had ice on both knees coming out of the locker room. Maybe injuries contributed to his sub-par play? Additionally, Arron Afflalo has continued his extremely disappointing play. As I have said before, the Nuggets need Gallo, Ty and AAA to all play well at the same time. AAA finished with a paltry 6 points and was 3-7 shooting. I'm willing to wager that this has been the most damaging thing for the Nuggets this series. You need your shooting guard to score. Afflalo has been MIA this series and it's confusing. One point in Afflalo's favor, as well as Gallo's ... Kobe Bryant finished with 22 points on 10-25 shooting, and was 1-5 in the fourth quarter (with Gallo guarding him most of the way). Maybe the task of guarding Kobe has taken too much out of AAA? Who knows.
The Nuggets bench did a good job in picking up the team. Andre Miller, outside of some bad passes, had himself a great game. He had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists and at one point scored 10 points in a row. Also, Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee gave the Nuggets some valuable minutes. Although McGee did have some critical mistakes, he did alter shots. Needed to do better at rebounding. No excuses for the way the Nuggets were outrebounded. It was just lazy play. Al Harrington gutted out an appearance on the court, playing with a protective mask over his broken nose. I appreciate Al's guts, but maybe he should sit things out if that mask makes him shoot like he did tonight 4-11.
Where do we go from here? Well, the teams head back to LA for Game 5. It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets respond to this loss. They are a young, developing team with what I think is a high ceiling. Will they show character and come out with guns blazing in Game 5? Or will they fold and give the Lakers their series victory? It will be a study in character, a study in coaching, a study in motivation and general ability to respond. I'm hoping the Nuggets leave it all on the court and play like there's literally no tomorrow in Game 5. They will need to in order to get this series back to Denver.