May 4, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket during the second half of game three in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Lakers-Nuggets Game 4 Preview: A Must-Win In Denver

Maybe it’s a little early in the game to call tonight’s contest a must-win. Then again, since when is it premature to call any postseason swing a must-win? Isn’t every playoff game a must-win?

Like the Lakers, this topic poses more questions than answers. After Game 3 we were all left with those similar musings on our beloved Lake Show.

The lack of depth, varying degrees of effort, lack of commitment to defending and for good measure there was also a brief Baby Bynum sighting all on display in Game 3’s deflating defeat. We never know what to expect from the Lakers, that is nothing new. What is even more unexpected is Denver’s sudden advantage on the glass. Who saw that coming?

After Game 1 it looked like the Lakers were just going to out-size their way through this series. Then Ty Lawson found his groove in Game 2 while JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried bullied the Laker bigs in Game 3. Thanks to George Karl getting maximum effort from his frontline the Nuggets have turned this series on its head. Suddenly the smaller Nuggets are playing bigger than the taller Lakers.

There is only one excuse for not winning the war on the glass when you’re boasting Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. All fingers point to the effort department.

Sometimes trying harder is all it takes. Bynum pretty much admitted as much when asked why his team fell flat under the Mile High altitude on Friday. That has got to change in Game 4.

Getting back to our original question, it seems like if ever the Lakers were faced with a must-win this year it would be today. For all intents and purposes this is the one you’ve got to get.

Today offers the Lakers the opportunity to be one step closer to closing out the series and one road win away from taking Denver’s swagger. Mike Brown knows he needs to get an inspired effort out of his men.

Getting Kobe Bryant back to his form from the first two games would help too. Kobe’s jumper disappeared thanks to L.A.’s lack of an interior presence. When Bynum and Gasol aren’t keeping the defense honest the burden falls squarely on the shoulders of Bryant. Safe to say a more balanced scoring attack would benefit everyone in purple and gold. That is where the Lakers can steal a page from the Nuggets’ playbook.

If Denver is going to take away L.A.’s size advantage then the Lakers have got to get more offensive contributions from unexpected sources. If Ramon Sessions, Devin Ebanks and Matt Barnes all crack double-figures in addition to what the big three bring then this should be a 3-1 series heading back to SoCal.

But we know all too well what happens when you start counting those purple and gold chickens before they hatch. For the immediate future the Lakers just need to focus on being focused while picking up their energy level to match Denver’s undying activity. Hopefully any Cinco de Mayo celebrations the Lakers may have participated in were muted. Last thing we need is to give Denver all the momentum. Then that will result in a certain must-win scenario. No question about that.

Tags: 2012 Nba Playoffs Andrew Bynum Denver Nuggets Devin Ebanks George Karl Javale Mcgee Kenneth Faried Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers Matt Barnes Mike Brown Pau Gasol Ramon Sessions Ty Lawson

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