Photo courtesy of Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

Note to Andrew Bynum: It’s okay to participate in the game before halftime. Otherwise, you’re just a late arrival to Party McGee.

Note to Kobe Bryant: When you’ve hit just three 3–pointers in seven attempts, you should stop and try something else, like getting to the rim. You’re crafty. You’re talented. You’re the Mamba for crying out loud.

Note to Steve Blake and Matt Barnes: You are THE ENTIRE LAKER BENCH. Not Jordan Hill, not Josh McRoberts and not Troy Murphy. No one expects you two to compete with the 43 ppg for the Denver Nuggets bench, but you’re still expected to produce SOMETHING. Assists, rebounds, steals, blocks – pick a stat.

Note to Mike Brown: You’re wasting timeouts. When your team gets down by more than 10-12 points, call one and have a discussion. You called a timeout when the team fell behind by seven points in the first quarter and then let the Nuggets finish on an 11-2 run.

Note to the Lakers: Having a 2-0 series lead doesn’t mean it’s time to experiment with the game plan. Stick to what works. What works – inside game, points in the paint. What doesn’t work – jacking up threes in transition. Jacking up threes and going 6-25.

“Note to self: the more I play D, the better we’ll be,” Andrew Bynum said after his 10-block game. Tonight, the D was all Denver’s, and it sparked an 18-2 run to end the first quarter. The second quarter found the Lakers scoring as many points as the home team, and they made a third quarter push that erased all but 4 points of that early 24-point deficit. It appeared as though another L.A. team would be making a comeback in these playoffs.

Before the third quarter ended, it seemed whatever ailed the Lakers in the first half had been figured out – Bynum found his game, the offense looked a lot better and the defense held Denver to 12 points for a good part of the quarter. The deficit was a manageable seven points going into the fourth, but instead of spending the final 12 minutes playing to their strengths, the Lakers launched nine three pointers instead and converted one. In 14 field goal attempts for the quarter, the Lakers attempted nine from behind the arc and it cost them a chance to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.

HIGH POINTS
3rd quarter push – After falling behind by 24 points in the first half, and being down 16 going into the break, the Lakers found their mojo and went on a 25-13 run to get within four points of the Nuggets. Andrew Bynum finally looked active, scoring 12 points on 5-8 from the field. Their defense also picked up, holding the Nuggets to just 30% shooting. They outrebounded Denver 18-9, scored more second chance points because of their efforts on the glass, and the points in the paint were dead even at 14 apiece, unlike the Nuggets’ 10 point advantage in that category after the first two quarters. With just a seven-point deficit to erase going into the final quarter, a victory didn’t seem impossible at all…until a four-minute drought from the field brought the Denver lead back up to double digits. But more on that later.
Pau Gasol – He’s been doing it for awhile now, having these all-around solid games as a complement to Bryant and Bynum; ceding the second option to his frontcourt mate and just doing everything else that the teams needs to pull out a win. Tonight Gasol contributed 16 points on 7-13 (the only Laker who shot over 50%), grabbed seven rebounds, handed out three assists, blocked four shots and in almost 40 minutes of playing time, had just one turnover. With Bynum nearly disengaged for the first half and Bryant’s shot clearly disagreeing with him, I was hoping Gasol would just take over the game and carry the Lakers to a win. He could have done it, and he should have done it, but like he’s been all season, he succumbs to whatever his teammates wanted, and Bryant wanted 23 shots.
Ramon Sessions – For someone who’s never played in the post-season before, Sessions sure looks the part of the savvy vet, entertaining the possibility of a triple double with his 15 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. He’s averaging 14 ppg, 5 apg and 4 rpg in this series. He looked the most (properly) aggressive player out there, shooting a jumper when it was there, or taking it right to the hoop for a dunk. Three games into the series, and Sessions and Gasol have become their most solid, consistent contributors.

LOW POINTS
Lack of energy and effort (on both ends of the court) – Maybe it IS the altitude that affected the Lakers tonight, but still, there is no excuse to show up for a test looking completely unprepared. The Lakers were so flat to start the game that they allowed Denver a 30-point first quarter. The Lakers were also beaten on the boards 54-44, and allowed 19 offensive rebounds. The Nuggets outscored them in the paint, 52-32, which is no surprise since the Lakers found it more appealing to shoot threes instead (6-25!). They gave up their inside game to the Nuggets, who found a lane to the hoop in practically every possession. The Lakers were caught sleeping on Ty Lawson (25 points, seven assists) especially, who is as fast as he is a prolific scorer.
Bynum and Gasol – Two All-Star players should never be outplayed by the likes of Javale McGee and rookie, Kenneth Faried, yet that is exactly what happened. McGee finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and a game-high +30! Faried had 12 points, 15 rebounds, a pair of assists and all the energy of a rookie.
Turnovers – 15 turnovers that contributed to a 19-10 advantage in fast break points for Denver. It’s been beaten to death in these playoffs – the Nuggets are a running team and the Lakers are not. Those turnovers are like gold for the Nuggets (pun totally intended), who sprint to the other end for an easy basket before their opponents even realize what’s happened.
Too many 3’s – 6-25 from behind the arc. 25 attempts when you’re clearly not hitting that threeball is too many for a team whose strength is in their inside game. Those 19 three-pointers that the Lakers missed, could have been a hook shot by Bynum, a face-up midrange from Gasol or Bryant, or a drive-in layup for Sessions.

Denver wouldn’t have gone down without a fight and tonight was proof. The Lakers missed a chance to get that 3-0 series lead. The Nuggets dictated every facet of the game tonight – pace, the glass, the effort, the crowd. If the Lakers want to get to their third victory before the Nuggets get their second, Sunday’s effort needs to take note of tonight’s loss.

Box Score