As the series returns to the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the Lakers have much work ahead of them if they wish to become serious contenders for the title.
First off, where was Kobe's supporting cast tonight? A big issue throughout most of the playoffs has been the Lakers relying too much on Kobe in the fourth quarter in order to close out games. If this team wants to be a serious contender, should they make the finals the likes of Fisher and Ariza as well as others like Farmer and Vujacic, need to step it up.
As above, the Laker bench once again struggled to bring anything to the table, leaving the majority of the work to Bryant, and Gasol. At the end of the night, the Laker bench provided 24 bench points, while the Nuggets had 42. Game One and Two combined for the Nuggets was 37, while the bench committed 29 alone on Saturday night. The Laker bench outscored the Nuggets by 12 in the first two games, while ending with fifteen on Saturday and 24 overall tonight.
Farmer had a combined nine points coming into tonight's game, ending with 10 overall. Vujacic has 12, with half coming from tonight. These are players who generally bring more to the table, and the Lakers need to do something to get them going.
A big issue definitely has to come from the teams lack of ability to drop three point attempts, sitting at 9-for-31 tonight. These are baskets that could have been turned into two-pointers and made it a whole new ball game.
Another big problem tonight for the Lakers was definitely down in the paint on defence. The team gave up over ten plus in offensive rebounds, many in the first, which in turn, typically resulted in two extra points for the Nuggets each and every second chance possession they got.
Gasol has generally been solid in defensive rebounding, leading with nine tonight, but Odom and Bynum need to get in there and fight for the ball.
Throughout the game, especially during the first quarter, the Lakers defence left key Nugget players open in the paint, such as Nene and Chris Andersen, allowing for either baskets or second chances for baskets. Their inability to defend in these players over time led to some huge points.
While the Lakers suffered many problems tonight, they certainly had a small amount of positives, such as their ability to once again keep Carmelo Anthony contained. During the first two games, Anthony was averaging over 30 points, while game three he was limited to just 18 points and tonight, a series low 15, however this led to the Nuggets bench to fill in the gaps by adding 42 overall.
A big issue was the Nuggets' ability to take large leads; however, the Lakers did a nice job responding on the first two attempts. Several times, the Nuggets had leads such as by 15; or later in the fourth, by 16; in which the Lakers responded by going into the half down by seven and bringing the score as close as four. After such big leads, however, giving up big baskets in the last three minutes, going 7-15.
Heading home for Wednesday night's game at the Staples Center, the Lakers need to show force and dominance in the paint, much like their series with Houston after returning from a 2-2 split.
The big key for the Lakers was the ability to come into Denver and steal a game, and stopping the Nuggets' momentum. They need to once again use the home court advantage and stop the Denver bench or things could get ugly.
What happens on Wednesday night remains to be seen, but the Lakers will have to wake the bench up. Otherwise, and as much as it pains me to say it, I really can't see them taking this series.