The NBA: Where "must-win" games happen


Series: Lakers 2 – Nuggets 1
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. MOUNTAIN


The Lakers snapped the Nuggets' 6 game (16 including the regualar season) home win streak with their Game 3 win. Tonight Los Angeles has a chance to put a strangle-hold on the series with a win and the Nuggets have a chance to get right back in this series with a win of their own.

Watching post game interviews on it seems the Nuggets think they just need to be more aggressive tonight in Game 4 and get Nene going early. Nene started off Game 3 hot going 4-5 from the field for 9 points, but as tends to happen … Nene's offense disappeared. After Nene's monster dunk to give Denver a 32-26 lead early in the second quarter, he only mustered 4 points for the rest of the game to finish with 13 points.

The same story happened with Melo. Anthony had a great first quarter scoring 14 points on a variety of shots. It seemed like a no-brainer that Melo was to reach 30+ points for the 6th straight time, but foul trouble and just flat not having the ball in his hands cooled him off. Melo only took 13 shots (shots where he was fouled not included) from the field, making only 4 of them, and it was his third lowest mark of the playoffs. The difference is that Denver was 2-0 with Melo taking 15 shots or less before Game 3 in the playoffs … that mark is now 2-1. I expect Melo to come out fired up tonight as he left the court with a rather melancholy look on his face.

I've never been one who has believed that #15 plays better when he's mad, and I hope that he has his emotions in check tonight. Speaking of emotions …

The Nuggets must keep themselves composed tonight. Anthony Carter and J.R. Smith each lost their cool and picked up technical fouls because pesky Sasha Vujacic got under their skin. The Machine as he's known or likes to call himself is a great agitator and the Nuggets just need to keep their cool. On both of those techs the Nuggets had just made a three-pointer … so instead of gaining 6 points, the Nuggets only gained 4 with the two made tech free throws. In close games … obviously every point is HUGE.

Officiating has been very questionable throughout the series on both sides. I watched every big call or no-call today thanks to my new DVR and while I questioned a lot of calls or no-calls I think, as usual, that both teams can make plenty of gripes. More importantly, calls have not decided these games. I refuse to buy into any conspiracy theory arguments. And I think as I saw pointed out in the comments section … it wasn't the officials who made Denver miss 22 three-pointers.

There are two ways to get three-pointers in this game.

  1. Shoot the ball from beyond the arc.
  2. And-1 opportunities.

The Nuggets are at their best when they are using the latter to set up their offense. Every player in Powder Blue and White has the ability to get to the rack and the Lakers have shown they can be attacked at the rim. Denver must, must, must, must, must, must, must, must, must, must continue to attack the Lakers in the paint. If they do then they'll have their best opportunity to win tonight and they will once again win the free-throw battle as the Lakers were +14 from the chairty stripe.

L.A. got to the line a lot in Game 3 and they missed a lot. The Lakers shot 68.9% from the foul line (31-45) and I think a lot of their misses (8-16 in the first quarter) were due to the frantic balloon waving that was going on behind the basket. Those balloons were crazy in the first quarter behind the Lakers' basket and I hope that continues tonight.

As the first three games have been … tonight's contest should again be close and execution late will probably be the difference. Los Angeles is up 2-1 because they have out-executed Denver in the fourth quarter twice. The one game where Denver did everything right late … they won.

It's a rainy, cloudy, and unusually chilly day here in Denver. The Nuggets may not be able to change the weather, but they surely can brighten things up around here with a win tonight.


Pregame Notes:

  • In the 2nd Quarter Denver was 0-8 from three-point land in Game 3
  • Melo made a beautiful steal on a Lakers 3-on-1 fastbreak by committing to Trevor Ariza and Ariza not getting rid the ball fast enough to Pau Gasol (who was calling for an alley-oop) … it was Melo's 7th multiple steal game of the playoffs
  • Denver's bench outscored the Lakers in the first half 17-9 … for the Game Denver's bench outscored L.A. 29-15


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