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The Los Angeles Lakers lost, and there’s no one to blame — not even the Denver Nuggets‘ scrappy play — but themselves.
In case you didn’t check the game, L.A. fell behind pretty damn early. 30-14 after the first quarter early, even. And there’s a host of reasons, all of which we highlighted here at LSL. This was predictable, because this team is consistently inconsistent.
Big games were almost always followed up by lazy play that you just can’t justify.
The specifics? Where the hell do we start?
We can start with Andrew Bynum’s disgusting lack of engagement that dug the Lakers into a 24-point hole in the first half. Penetrations and kicks were being given out more than the hussy’s number across the street. Bynum didn’t rotate — and didn’t want to, either — and Denver took advantage by driving and hitting the threes like it wasn’t anyone’s business.
We can also blame it on lethargic defense in general: It wasn’t as if Pau Gasol was defending rookie Kenneth Faried all that well, and most times, Faried’s hustle earned him some way-too-easy-Pau-where-the-hell-were-you looks on offense.
Of course, Ty Lawson had the game we’ve been expecting him to have (25 points off of 19 shots to go along with seven dimes), and that just can’t happen if you want to beat the Nuggets.
The real X-factor for Denver? Well, the one that took advantage of the L.A.’s poor defensive effort on the interior (and the one that damned us all with the game he had): Javale McGee.
McGee finished the game with a nice little line: 16 points off of 12 shots to go along with 15 — 15! — rebounds, six of them being on offense. That line still doesn’t do justice to the night he had; dude was abusing the interior with his hustle and inspiring play, frustrating Laker fans across the globe by out-working the Laker bigs for boards and scooping anything in his tracks.
Of course, despite all that and really crappy, lethargic play on both sides of the ball for L.A., the Lakers managed to turn it on in the second half — as they’re wont to do … sometimes. Incredibly, Andrew Bynum became interested in playing basketball on both ends and led to a nice run that brought the Lakers within as close as five points in the third quarter. Coupled with the Lakers feeding ‘Drew was gorgeous ball movement that led to open shots which — gasp! — the Lakers were knocking down.
And then the fourth quarter began, and that was it.
Because the Nuggets played 48 minutes of basketball, where as the Lakers played somewhere around 12 (and that’s being generous). What’s damning is that this game wasn’t out of L.A.’s reach, and we’re so sure had there been a little more effort in every quarter, the Lakers wouldn’t have had a problem.
The fourth quarter was defined by more lethargic play and the Nuggets’ will to make the Lakers pay for sleepwalking all night.
Particularly trashy was Steve Blake, which should come as no surprise to Laker fans: The dude can’t guard 98 percent of the starting point guards in the NBA on any given night and he isn’t quick or crafty enough to beat anyone off the dribble when he has the ball. That was as evident as it ever has been in this game.
But that wasn’t enough for Blake, either. To further try and sabotage his team, the dude decided he’d botch some entry passes to a long-ass 7-footer (Andrew Bynum), miss some open threes and totally bury any chance the Lake Show had of ever pulling it to a tie ball game.
It wasn’t all his fault, though: Kenneth Faried banged the boards too (matching McGee for a game-high 15 boards, six of them coming on offense) and got easy looks in the paint, with Pau Gasol’s signature “wait, where’d my man go?” defense allowing it all.
And then there was Andrew Bynum, who wasn’t all that terrible in the fourth (though nowhere near as strong as he was in the third), but had some crucial turnovers after holding the ball waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(aaaaa)yyyyy too long with his back to the basket and two to three defenders surrounding him. This, sadly, happened on multiple occasions that, we’re sure, had L.A. fans collectively throwing their Hot Cheetohs and Diet Dr. Pepper in rage while tweeting in all caps and taking off our shirts in our living rooms in disgust. (Wait, that was just me?) These turnovers were untimely, and essentially help to put the Lakers away.
Even more frustrating was that Denver couldn’t buy a bucket late in the game to pull away (given the score, you’d think Denver got hot in the fourth) and wound up shooting under 40 percent from the field after some pretty stellar shooting to start.
Overall, it was a pretty horrible loss because the Lakers really couldn’t give a crap. The mentality was predictable as hell, as we’ll keep whining and moaning about, but we’ll be damned if this team plays like this for the rest of the playoffs.
The Lakers don’t normally follow up total stinkers with other stinkers (though it’s happened this season, to be sure), so I’d be damned if L.A. managed to toss away Game Four to Denver. The only way that happens — given how close(ish) the Purple and Gold came to stealing this one in Denver while they put forth anything resembling an effort — is if the Nuggets drain anything and everything from the perimeter. (And this is the playoffs, and Game Four will be in Denver, so this isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility.)
For now, be ticked, Laker fans. Our team didn’t give a crap, and sadly, we do.
L.A. still leads the series 2-1 and will be back at the Pepsi Center on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. PT.