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Bynum Disappears, Kobe Misfires, Lakers Lose (5.4.12)
Game three was ugly and came down to effort, plain and simple. The Denver Nuggets won game three 99-84 despite shooting just 39.8% from the field, compared to the Lakers' underwhelming 37.2%. With bricks aplenty, the Nuggets dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Lakers 54-44, with 19 offensive rebounds compared to just 13 from LA. The Nuggets killed the Lakers with numerous offensive rebounds and putbacks. Their effort on the glass gave them extra possessions and allowed them to win the points in the paint battle for the first time in the series with a surprising 52-32 advantage. Add in the 20 points the Nuggets scored off of LA's 15 turnovers and you can easily understand why the Lakers lost. However, after a disastrous first quarter, where the Lakers were outscored 30-14, the Lakers continually fought back and were always hanging around, with the deficit anywhere from 6 to 12 points. In the end, the Lakers could not get over the hump and close out the game, despite many opportunities.
The Lakers also seemed to get robbed on quite a few calls. On quite a few occasions LA would make a push and a call would go against them and thwart their momentum. In order to not be a full fledged homer, I have plenty of evidence gathered for you to watch. Home teams always have an advantage when it comes to the officials, but some of these calls were highly questionable.
The first quarter started out the way the Lakers wanted. The Lakers controlled the pace and made sure the Nuggets didn't turn the game into a track meet. The Lakers went into Bynum early, forcing the Nuggets to double team, and received some good looks off of the kick out and swing. The Lakers ran consecutive plays that were beautiful. Sessions dribbled up to the far wing as Kobe circled down from the far wing and up to the near elbow. Kobe set a nice backdoor pick on Pau's man at the near elbow, allowing Pau a free release to the rim. Sessions immediately noticed Pau running free and sent the lob for the alley oop dunk. They followed this with the same exact set, but with a wrinkle due to the reaction of the defense. Sessions dribbled to the far wing. Kobe circled down from the far mid block up to the near elbow to set the backpick on Pau's man. The Nuggets covered Pau, rotating behind the pick, so Kobe continued upward and popped up to the top of the key as Bynum set a downscreen for him. Bynum annihilated Afflalo on the screen, and Mozgov didn't switch, leaving Kobe wide open to catch and shoot the open 18ft jumper. Kobe swished it. That put the score at 12-12 with just over five minutes to go.
Following Kobe's jumper, Ty Lawson burst onto the scene. Lawson used a pick from Faried on the far wing to attack the baseline and finish at the rim for a layup. He then stole a bad pass in the lane from Pau to a cutting Ebanks, and he took it the distance to throw down a nice dunk. Two possessions later, Lawson gathered a McGee block, pushed up the court to the far elbow, and kicked out to Arron Afflalo for the open far wing 3, swish. The next possession Lawson was at the near wing. He avoided the pick and attacked baseline. He blew by his man and got fouled on the layup, sinking both free throws. Following that, Lawson dribbled up to the near wing, attacked baseline, got to the mid block and hit a stepback 13ft jumper. The next possession Lawson ran a high pick and roll from the top. Jordan HIll was forced to switched onto him. Lawson blew by Hill as he drove left to the near side and finished with a tough lefty layup over Hill's outstretched arms. A couple possessions later, Lawson was at the far wing. He attacked baseline, blowing by Blake, and ended up hitting a tough runner as he was fouled. He sank the free throw. Lawson's massive impact swelled the Lakers deficit to 14 points. From the 4:35 mark on, Lawson went 5-6 for 13 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers. In the first 7:25, Lawson went 0-1 and did nothing else as the Lakers controlled the tempo. The Nuggets finished the quarter +11 on rebounds, +7 on fast break points, and +10 on points in the paint. Their activity was tremendous.
The final seconds of the first quarter provided one of the numerous dubious calls against the Lakers. Hoping to end the quarter on a high note, Kobe caught the ball at the far top key. Kobe stood at an angle with his back facing the camera. With Brewer crowding him, Kobe waited for Brewer to reach in. As Brewer reached across his arms, Kobe immediately went up for the jumper through Brewer's reach. The refs called the foul, but they ruled it a foul on the floor. The reach-in swing through jumper almost always gets rewarded free throws, but not this time. Instead of a trip to the line, Kobe ended up getting doubled and turning the ball over to end the quarter down 30-14. Kobe went 3-5 for 6 points, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers. Bynum went 0-2 for 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. Pau went 2-5 for 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 turnover.