Lakers center Andrew Bynum powers his way past Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov… (Lakers center Andrew Bynum…)
Some things to take away from the Lakers' 99-84 Game 3 loss Friday to the Denver Nuggets:
1. The Lakers didn't play at the right tempo. It's wasn't the altitude. It was the Lakers' attitude. After demonstrating through two games they simply needed to play at a methodical pace to ensure a win, the Lakers did the opposite. The Nuggets' victory featured all the ingredients necessary to beat the Lakers. They scored in transition (19 points). The Nuggets converted on second-chance points. They goaded the Lakers into rushed shots, including a six-of-25 mark from three-point range. Credit the Lakers for chipping away at the Nuggets' 41-17 lead for the rest of the game. But the hole proved too deep.
This proves two things. It's way too presumptuous to think the Lakers could beat Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals because the Thunder would make the Lakers pay the same way Denver did in a friendly environment at Pepsi Center. It's also clear that the Lakers reverted back to a season-wide trend where they'd stop trying and fall into bad habits after appearing to play the right way. Laker fans can joke all they want that the Lakers extended the series just so Metta World Peace can play more games against the Thunder. But the Lakers need all the rest they can get so they have some chance in beating OKC.
2. Andrew Bynum's mixed growth was on full display. Bynum's development has come in different stages. He sets a Laker record. Then he stops trying. Then he acts childish. Bynum provided all three in the Game 3 loss to Denver. His zero-point effort on zero-of-three shooting in the first half reflected his minimal aggressiveness, struggles through passing out of double teams and laziness on defense and perhaps Timofey Mozgov starting at center instead of Kosta Koufos. Bynum suddenly bounced back in the second half where he dropped 18 points, and, despite strong post positioning, didn't receive enough looks. And then a few sequences in the third quarter epitomized his boiling emotions. He stewed after officials missed an obvious goaltend from JaVale McGee, but the reaction was hardly warranted and even required Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes and assistant coach John Kuester to separate him. Later on, Bynum struck an inadvertent elbow to Al Harrington, who suffered a fractured nose.
It's impossible to separate the good and the bad qualities Bynum has offered. For better and for worse, it's part of his maturing process. But he can't afford to go through such stages when the Lakers depend on him so much.
3. Kobe Bryant worked hard, but he didn't shoot well. In intensity, Bryant offered everything the Lakers needed. He remained the sole Laker who actually tried. Bryant's scoring and setting up Bynum in the third quarter also largely led to the Lakers cutting Denver's lead. Yet, when it came to Bryant's actual shooting, it was absymal. You can't fault his seven-of-23 fault entirely on him. With the Lakers' front line lacking aggressiveness in the first half, there weren't any other choises. But Bryant does deserve blame for not fully finding Bynum once he was engaged in the second half, and for taking 10 three-pointers instead of attacking the basket.
4. The Lakers' effort was atrocious. Lakers Coach Mike Brown can scan the film all he wants. But the answers all lie in the box score. The Lakers' front line fought very little on the glass, allowing Denver to get 19 offensive rebounds. As slow as the Lakers inevitably are in transition defense, many of them simply jogged back. Pau Gasol, in particular, allowed JaVale McGee (16 points) to look like an All-Star. Credit Ramon Sessions for posting 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, but blame him for failing on pick-and-roll coverages that left Ty Lawson wide open for 25 points on nine-of-19 shooting and seven assists.
5. The Lakers' bench offered little. Take away Jordan Hill's six rebounds, and the Lakers' reserves provided nothing. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake needlessly combined for a one-of-10 clip from three-point range. Considerng Barnes' shooting struggles in the playoffs, he should solely devote himself to making hustle plays. Blake should step in a few feet to build more rhythm in his shot. And meanwhile, Brown should play Devin Ebanks more at backup shooting guard. He's remained solid during his increased role, and he's certainly a better alternative than what Blake offered in Game 3.
E-mail the Lakers blog at email@example.com. Follow the Lakers blog on Twitter and on Facebook.