NBA Playoffs 2011: Denver Nuggets Must Carry Confidence into Game 5
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The situation looked dire in Denver Monday night, as the Nuggets found themselves in a deep 0-3 hole.
Throughout the first three games of their first-round series against Oklahoma City, Denver seemed out of sorts.
They couldn't run in transition, they couldn't hit open jumpers and they couldn't get multiple players going.
That all changed Monday night.
The new Nuggets, the team fans grew to love in the last six weeks of the regular season, finally showed up and showed they can defeat the highly talented Thunder team they made look unbeatable up to the point.
In Game Four, Denver did what they needed to do the entire series—they dashed, dimed and dunked all over Oklahoma City.
Numerous Nuggets went off.
It's no secret the new-look Nuggets thrive on the fast break, and it comes as no surprise that Thunder head coach Scott Brooks prepared his team for Denver's transition game.
Oklahoma City has done well to get back on defense and force Denver to play half-court offense more, but on Monday, the Nuggets' relentless running couldn't be stopped.
Ty Lawson, almost always the fastest player on any hardwood, pushed the pace as he knifed through Thunder bigmen to the hoop.
Lawson filled up the basket to the tune of 27, a new playoff career high, with many of his points in the paint.
The Nuggets enjoyed their second-best game of the series on the break (10 points), and they must continue running the floor Wednesday night in OKC to give them a chance at winning.
Besides scoring, Lawson dished out three dimes, while Danilo Gallinari was second on the team with four assists of his own.
In the game, the Nuggets moved the ball well (19 assists), which resulted in easy baskets, just as it had for Denver post-trade in the regular season.
Now, the Nuggets are an unselfish bunch, and they relize they all must share the ball if the team in to thrive.
And the Nuggets protected the ball; they only turned it over eight times in the game as their passing was efficient all night.
In all, six Nuggets scored in double digits in Game 4, Denver's average since the trade, and the Nuggs have shown they can dominate when many players go off.
The Nuggets have to share the ball well again Wednesday, and if at least five players score 10-plus, it will increase their chances of winning mightily.
Also, Denver attacked the hoop in Game 4 with a reckless abandon, they scored 30 points in the painted area despite Serge Ibaka and other Thunder bigs protecting the paint with much fervor.
In basketball, calls usually benefit the more aggressive player, especially when driving to the iron—the Nuggets finally played with that killer instinct and took it in strong over and over.
Really, a Nuggets win in Game 5 is as simple as a layup.
Denver must attack like their very basketball lives depend upon it (which they will), running the court with speed and determination to score.
The Nuggets have to capitalize on missed buckets, rebound the basketball (Denver is a -9.5 per game) and take off down court with every intention to put the biscuit in the basket.
That means Denver has to play inside-out, getting the ball down low to Nene in the block and to Kenyon Martin for 12 to 15-foot jumpers, while hitting others with crisp passes on cuts to through the lane. When those inside shots start hitting, the Thunder defense will collapse, and the ball must then be passed outside where players like Gallinari and Smith need to knock down three-point shots.
Energy has to be high on both ends of the court for Denver in Game 5, they need to frustrate Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and other Thunder scorers, come up with steals and convert them for easy transition buckets. On offense, the attack must be adamant about scoring inside, drawing fouls and converting from the charity stripe.
Can the Nuggets come back from 3-0, now 3-1 to win this series as the first NBA team to ever come back from 3-0?
The Nuggets already drew up the diagram of how to beat the Thunder in Game 4; they only have to carry out the same execution in Game Five to win again.
Game 5 takes place Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. MDT on TNT.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com, a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com and a contributor to milehighreport.com writing on the Denver Broncos.
Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.
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