I thought this game came down to two things: hustle and energy. The Lakers had neither.
The lack of hustle and energy contributed to the Lakers getting outplayed in two crucial categories: bench scoring and offensive rebounding. All of this results in a Lakers' 120-101 loss.
We all knew both of these teams had some of the deepest benches in the league and that they would play a big factor at who would emerge victorious in this series.
In Game Four, a big reason for the Nuggets' win was the play of J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen and Linas Kleiza. Smith finished the night with 24 points, Andersen had 14 rebounds and two blocked shots and Kleiza added 10 points. Denver’s bench outscored the Lakers' bench, 42-24.
In addition to their contributions in the stat column, all three provided energy, especially Andersen. He only had six points, but they were all on thunderous dunks that got the crowd going and provided momentum for his team. He seemed to always be making a big play that would ignite the crowd.
The Lakers' lack of effort on the glass was painful to watch. Denver had 20 offensive rebounds in the win. That’s not a typo right there. Read it again. They had 20 offensive rebounds on their way to out-rebounding the Lakers altogether 58-40. Rebounding is all about hustle and wanting the ball more than your opponents.
Denver played with a greater sense of urgency and knew it could not go down in the series 3-1, and it showed in the effort in being able to get repeated possessions and second-chance opportunities.
I give a lot of credit to Denver and doing what it had to do in evening up the series. The Lakers' performance was subpar, but it was nowhere near as bad as the efforts in games four and six of the Houston series. Those games were flat out embarrassing.
The Lakers looked like they were trying, but they weren’t playing with near the sense of urgency that they had in Game 3, when they knew that they had to get a win on the road to take back the home-court advantage.
The Lakers did look tired at times in Game 4, and that had to be a contributing factor in their effort. It’s looking like those extra games against the Rockets are coming back to bite them a little bit now.
I don’t need to be Captain Obvious and state the importance of Game 5 Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The Lakers know what’s at stake, and I have to think they will come out with a greater sense of energy and hustle than they showed Monday night.
After all, you can’t do much worse than allowing your opponent to grab 20 offensive rebounds.