Fans react when Nuggets point guard Andre Miller makes a three-point shot… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The double teams on Kobe Bryant kept happening, but it didn't matter. He had a trusty option to bail him out.
If you're currently scratching your head, you're not the only one. The Denver Nuggets hardly believed they needed to take Blake's open three-point shot seriously, either. So on those two instances Bryant passed out of a double team, the Nuggets left Blake open. He made them pay twice. Blake did so again on his third try after finally seeing some defensive pressure.
Those sequences in the Lakers' 103-88 Game 1 victory last week only served as an anamoly. Blake has only scored three points since his nine-point outburst in Game 1. Since they went six for 17 from three-point range in Game 1, the Lakers have gone eight for 40 from long distance in the last two games. And the Lakers are flummoxed with various answers on how to fix them.
Bryant told reporters Saturday that the Lakers' six-for-25 clip in Game 3 reflected many shots coming late in the shot clock simply because the offense started too late. Lakers Coach Mike Brown told reporters players need to space the floor better and move a few feet in before taking open shots. And, of course, Andrew Bynum could always improve his Game 3 effort in passing quicker out of double teams and showing more aggressiveness in the post.
There's a whole litany of reasons that mark this reality.
The Lakers remain a fundamentally different offensive team based on how well they shoot from three-point range. They shot 35.3% from three-point range in games they won, while going 26.6% from downtown in games they lost. Neither number is actually great, which is why Denver will likely show in Game 4 as it did in previous games in not taking the Lakers' outside shooting seriously.
The Nuggets instead remain consumed with limiting Bynum, Pau Gasol and Bryant in the post. The Lakers can offset that by Bynum showing more aggressiveness inside, Gasol nailing mid-range jumpers and Bryant making his miraculous shots. But the more effective the Lakers will show in these areas, the more likely the Nuggets will devote even more resources to stopping them.
That's where having trusty outside shooters come in handy. Players can bury those looks and change the swing of the game. In Game 1, Blake's three consecutive three-pointers contributed to a 12-4 first-quarter end, giving the Lakers a 27-14 cushion to end the period. In Game 3, the Lakers' six-for-25 mark from the outside marked the second highest factor behind Bynum's lazy first half contributing to the Lakers' loss. And regardless of whether the Lakers hit or make those shots, it's likely Denver will give them open looks to take them.
Given their track record in the past few seasons, it's unrealistic to expect the Lakers to suddenly become a strong outside shooting team. Yet, the difference between being terrible and mediocre in this department drastically yields incredibly different results.
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