Kobe Bryant knocked down a huge fourth quarter 24-foot three-point shot over J.R. Smith to give the Lakers a 96-95 lead and five clutch free throws to seal the win.
Game Three was another nail biter that went down to the wire. The Lakers started off to a sluggish start but stayed close. The Nuggets took the lead early in the first quarter and held onto it. The score at the end of the quarter was 28-26 Denver.
Carmelo Anthony got off to a fast start for the third straight game, scoring 21 points prior to fouling out, 18 of which were scored in the first half.
The Nuggets received a huge lift from Chris Anderson and J.R.Smith, who combined for 25 points off the bench.
The Nuggets opened the second quarter with an 8-3 scoring run to increase their lead but the Lakers continued to hang around. The score was 39-39 when both teams closed the quarter with scoring runs. This run was 12-8 in favor of the Nuggets, leaving the score at halftime as 52-48 Denver.
The Lakers' 13 missed free throws, bad defensive rotations, and not boxing out the Nuggets front line were some of the main reasons the team was facing a deficit at the end of the first half. The Lakers and Nuggets continued to battle in the third quarter and took an eight point lead at the end of the quarter on a J.R. Smith three-pointer.
The game statistics won't show this but Luke Walton played a solid game and had an excellent third quarter defensively on Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers made defensive adjustments in defending Anthony that turned out to be effective. Anthony and Billups both saw constant double-teams and four hands in their faces at all times.
Emotions got the best of JR Smith as he got in the face of Sasha Vujacic, who defended him on a shot, and started barking at him. He was called for a technical foul for taunting him following a successful three-pointer. The score at the end of third quarter was 79-71 Denver.
The fourth quarter started with Kobe Bryant knocking down the technical free throw. The teams slugged it out toe-to-toe throughout the quarter and the lead changed hands multiple times but the Lakers' defense improved and the team executed in the fourth quarter.
Once again Trevor Ariza made an important steal late in the game.
The Lakers, fueled by a 21-12 run, outscored the Nuggets 32-18 in the quarter to earn a 2-1 series lead. Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin both fouled out of the game.
Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter, which topped his own Lakers’ record for points scored in the first three games of a conference final with 113; the previous record was 109.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Denver Nuggets and it also snapped their 16-game home win streak. The win was the Lakers' seventh straight road playoff win against the Nuggets, which ties an NBA record for consecutive road wins against a single opponent.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times