Another thrilling game takes place in Denver, as the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets tonight. The Nuggets return home after splitting the first two games in Los Angeles. The Nuggets are 16-0 at home since late March, earlier this year. The Los Angeles Lakers are better on the road than at home. This should make for a great set-up.
Out of the gate, Fisher works the boards and brings LA by two. Ariza's turnaround jump shot is good, bringing the score to a tie after Nene and Jones shots. Two minutes into the game, Anthony is to the line, making one of two shots.
25 seconds later Billups makes both free throws giving Denver a 7-4 lead. By the end of the first quarter, the Nuggets have shot thirteen free throw shots. This is obviously a big problem for the Lakers, having to give up that many fouls in just one quarter.
Upon further review, eight of nine three point shots were missed in the first half by the Lakers, compared to ten of eleven three point shots by the Nuggets. This would have had a huge contributing factor to both team points overall, had these shots gone in.
One of the big issues for LA tonight were their lack of ability to sink free throw shots, ending the game with 68.9 percent overall compared to Nuggets' 83.9%. They made up for this in both field goals and three point shots though, ending 45.8% and 31.6% respectively.
A major issue still at hand is the Lakers bench needed to come on and contribute to the board, and once again they were unable to answer the call, only scoring a combined fifteen points, meanwhile the Nuggets bench contributed a high 29 points, with Chris Andersen alone, matching the Lakers bench in points.
If the Lakers want any shot of taking the series and making the finals, Odom, Farmar, and Vujacic need to step their game up considerably.
Moving along, I noticed the one Chancey Billups and his lack of getting off strong, but able to end the game matching his points from game one. His field goal shooting suffered considerably overall, as he made 38 percent in game one, to climb up to 40 percent in game two, only to drop to a series low, 33% tonight, shooting 37 percent overall.
Lakers were able to pull down some big shots to block any second chance attempts, with 35 defensive rebounds. One of the issues many have discussed is the lack of ability to close out Carmelo Anthony, who was able to bring 39 points in game one and 34 in game two.
Tonight, the Lakers looked to box out Anthony and keep him contained, to much of Laker success, Anthony fouled out in the last minute as well as only securing 21 points, series low so far. Keeping Anthony contained is a big factor in the Laker defense and tonight they showed that.
Laker offense were strong in the second half, with the ability to draw the fouls and bring in much needed points. The three technicals on the Nuggets certainly did them no favours either.
One of the key points, closing out the game, which Bryant and the Lakers did successfully and once again, a huge play out of Trevor Ariza, as we witnessed in game one, was able to make the steal and draw a foul heading to the basket.
One issue that still remains is the lack of help from several key Laker players, such as Derek Fisher, and Andrew Bynum. Both players contributed a combined 11 points overall, after combining for 19 in game one and 11 in game two.
Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza have both been tremendous supporting players for Kobe Bryant, but need that extra boost, both which could be coming from Bynum and Fisher, if they can pick their game up for the remaining games of the series.
Overall, I think the Laker team, though started softly, woke up in the second half and showed everyone why they are who they are and I think that even with a game four loss on Monday, they have a very strong chance in closing this series out in six games. Monday night should provide for some interesting basketball as we await the Pepsi Center.
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