I thought the Lakers really stepped up tonight in their 103-97 victory.
The win showed me that they have the one trait that is common in all potential champions and that is confidence.
Even after a disappointing Game Two loss, in which they gave up home court advantage for the second straight playoff series, their play tonight in Denver showed me a lot about the character and heart of the team that I thought had been lacking in the playoffs.
I saw it in the opening seconds of the game when Derek Fisher came out and hit his first jump shot of the game. Here is a guy that has epitomized the word “struggle” in this years playoffs, but his actions showed that despite his recent lack of success that he was not afraid of the moment.
As for Kobe Bryant, what can you say that hasn’t been said about the former MVP.
His ability to step up and hit big shots time and time again while leading the Lakers to victory was nothing short of amazing and he did it again hitting a huge three pointer with 1:09 left in the game that put the Lakers up for good.
He also showed his poise down the stretch by calmly sinking four free throws in the final 22 seconds to seal the win. Bryant finished the game with 41 points.
Pau Gasol really stepped up in the game finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. I thought the way that he was able to take advantage of his height and use it against the smaller Denver frontcourt was a big key in the Lakers victory this evening.
Defensively, the Lakers were able to hold Carmelo Anthony to just 21 points for the game. 18 of those were accumulated in the first half of play. Anthony finished the game shooting just 4-of 13 and eventually fouled out of the game.
The Nuggets really seemed to show a lack of maturity by committing three technical fouls. Those mental lapses kept the Lakers within striking distance and they eventually came back to the haunt them as the Lakers outscored them by 14 points in the crucial fourth quarter.
While the win was huge for the Lakers going forward and helped them to gain back the home court advantage in the series, the night was not all roses and wine.
If I were Phil Jackson, I would have them doing nothing but shooting free throws during practice tomorrow. To say that the Lakers free throw shooting was just awful would be a understatement.
The Lakers missed 14 free throws tonight and shot just 68.9 percent as a team. Aside from Kobe Bryant who was a respectable 15 of 17 from the charity stripe, the rest of the team was just 16 of 28.
If they had made half of the free throws they missed, the game would have been decided long before the final minute or two.
How pro basketball players who make millions of dollars can be this bad at a fundamental part of the game is beyond me.
If this trend is not reversed, this could come back to haunt the purple before this playoff year is done.
At least now I can sit back and watch Game Four with less pressure knowing that the worst that can happen is that they come back to Los Angeles with the series even at 2-2.
What I would like to see is for the Lakers to show a killer instinct and treat this game as if its a must win situation and go for broke.
If they can do that then I really like their chances to win another NBA championship.
I guess we’ll find out Monday at 6 p.m. PST.