NBA Playoffs 2012: Nuggets' Keys to Winning Game 6 Will Be to Rebound and Run

Rich KurtzmanSenior Analyst IMay 10, 2012

The Nuggets must run aggressively at the hoop and rebound relentlessly to win Thursday night.
The Nuggets must run aggressively at the hoop and rebound relentlessly to win Thursday night.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Denver Nuggets brought out their best game against the Lakers in L.A., stealing Game 5, 102-99.

In the game, Andre Miller scored 24 points with eight assists and JaVale McGee went wild with a career-high 21 points while snagging 14 rebounds. It was the first time in Nuggets history two bench players scored 20-plus points in a playoff game per the team's twitter, and each were very valuable to the team's win Tuesday night.

And the way the team played—attacking the hoop and getting out in transition for run-outs by Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer—was exactly how the Nuggets have to win.

Denver, the NBA's No. 1 fast-break team has averaged 21 transition points per game compared to the Lakers' 12.2 per game in the series, and there's no doubt it's how the Nuggets are at their best.

Clearly, the youthful Nuggets are the more athletic team than the older and more experienced Lakers, as McGee and Faried fly past L.A. bigs Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol on the regular, as does the incredibly speedy Ty Lawson and other Denver guards.

It's obvious the halfcourt dominated style of play in the postseason has slowed Denver down. They're scoring eight points less than in the regular season (103.5-95.4), making it even more key for them to focus on an up-tempo attack from the beginning.

Yes, starting hot is a solid indicator of success for the Nuggets as well, and dictating an high-energy pace from the opening tip will only bode well for Denver at altitude.

Lawson and Miller can push the pace by throwing long outlet passes or running the floor themselves and setting up teammates with open looks at the rim.

But what sets up that running is rebounding, and the Nuggets have grabbed 3.2 more boards (48.5-45.3) in wins compared to losses.

In the Nuggets' victories, McGee and Faried out-muscled, out-jumped and out-played Bynum and Gasol. In Game 3 they combined for 28 points and 29 rebounds, and it was 31 points and 23 boards in Game 5 for the Nuggets' big men.

McGee and the "Manimal" out-rebounded L.A.'s twin towers 52-40 in those Nuggets wins, and they'll have to both come up huge once again Thursday night if the men from the Mile High City want to force a Game 7.

But the rebounding doesn't end with those two. The entire team must go after loose balls, and they had at least four players grab four-plus rebounds in wins.

Indeed, it will be a true team effort for the starless Nuggets against the super-team Lakers, and Denver knows exactly what they have to do to win.

"My hope—I don't know if this is true or not—is fatigue will come our way and the rhythm of the game and tempo of the game and the pace the way we play," Nuggets coach George Karl said of Game 6. "They're getting tired of hearing it and you're probably getting tired of hearing it: Our only chance to beat 'em is run 'em and play with a tremendous energy and intensity."


Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. Follow him on facebook and/or twitter for links to articles, breaking news and need-to-know info on everything sports.