Denver Nuggets' Confidence Is Usurped By The LA Lakers' Defense

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 1, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets is defended by Ron Artest (L) #37 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on February 28, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 95-89.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It's one thing to be confident as a team in your abilities, but if Sunday night showed the Denver Nuggets anything, it's that confidence needs to result in baskets, not empty smiles or gestures.

Denver failed to make it three in a row over the Los Angeles Lakers in a physical, hard fought contest the Lakers won due to their dedicated effort on the defensive end, especially in the fourth quarter.

The first two meetings between the teams were defined by the Lakers' inability to slow the Nuggets down, but this game resembled more of what could be expected should the teams meet in the postseason.

In the playoffs, possessions become critical so the game slows down. So in order for each team to maximize possessions, a premium is placed on quality defense and strong post play.

Los Angeles was dominant in both categories when the game mattered the most as Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined for 35 points and 26 rebounds in a game where they controlled the paint.

Ron Artest forced Carmelo Anthony into a bad shooting night, and his tight defense caused Anthony to foul out late in the game when the outcome was yet to be determined.

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On a night Kobe Bryant shot 3-17, the Lakers were able to turn to his talented supporting cast, and eke out a win which was needed for a team which had shown little resistance to the Nuggets in previous meetings.

Bryant did have 13 assists, with many of them coming in the fourth quarter, which may be a sign that Bryant understands the importance of placing faith in the abilities of his teammates.

Denver may have been done in by their over-confidence, or the fact their previous two wins over the Lakers had come with such ease, they saw little reason to be concerned.

The various smiles of the Nuggets under-scored the playoff like atmosphere of the game, and it would serve Denver well to remember the regular season is a poor indication of how a team will perform in the postseason.

Denver held a lead for much of the game, but when the momentum began to shift, there was no corresponding adjustment in the body language of the Nuggets.

It was clear the defensive intensity of the game increased in the third quarter, but Denver failed to match the Lakers in that department, and the result was the Nuggets being man-handled at the end.

Denver's lack of size is an issue, which is shielded when the Nuggets are able to push the tempo, but when they are forced to play a half court game, that deficiency is illuminated.

The 95-89 loss dropped the Nuggets five and a half games behind the Lakers in the West, and decreased their lead over the Dallas Mavericks to only a half of a game.

Denver finds itself in a precarious position because until now there had been little doubt as to who the second best team in the West was, but now they must put the smiles away, and garner their game faces.

The Nuggets have the talent and the experience to go deep into the postseason, but they may need to become more dedicated in their efforts before they find themselves slipping down the ladder in the convoluted West.

For the Lakers, it was another example of the talent which encompasses the team, and their ability to find a way to win despite a bad night from their superstar.

It bodes well for their prospects going forward.