Nuggets back in series after Game 3 win over Lakers
There was blood. There was sweat. There were no tears.
The Denver Nuggets are back in business.
Determined to fight back in their Western Conference playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets jumped out to a quick start and showed plenty of poise down the stretch of a 99-84 victory in Game 3 Friday night at Pepsi Center.
“It’s huge,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson said. “We dealt with having a big lead. We dealt with them coming back and making it a game. Nobody got nervous so we learned a lot today, and it’s probably going to help us out throughout the series.”
After losing veteran forward Al Harrington to a broken and bleeding nose late in the third quarter, the Nuggets turned a seven-point lead into a decisive victory to get their first win this postseason.
The Lakers still lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, but the Nuggets have seized the momentum heading into Game 4 Sunday at Pepsi Center.
“It was a fun win for me,” Denver coach George Karl said. “I can’t remember a win I’ve enjoyed as much as this. I had a little bit of a feel that we could get it done, and the guys went out and did it impressively.
Emphasizing energy and effort from the opening tip, the Nuggets outscored the Lakers 28-2 over a 7-minute, 6-second span bridging the first and second quarters. The run included a 19-0 and marked the first time Denver had led in the series.
“We didn’t do a great job in the first two games coming out strong,” Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari said. “We knew if we had a good start, we had a chance to win. We did a great job coming out strong and everybody was very intense. It was a great game.”
Starting with Gallinari’s solid defense against Lakers star Kobe Bryant (7-for-23 shooting), the Nuggets had standout performances across the board.
Reserve center JaVale McGee enjoyed a breakout game with 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. He had a total of seven points and 15 rebounds in the first two games combined.
“I was really timid in the first two games,” McGee said. “I just wanted to be extremely aggressive in this game.”
McGee and rookie teammate Kenneth Faried were a formidable duo against Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Faried scored 12 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He also knocked down an important 15-foot jumper that gave Denver a nine-point lead when the Lakers were making a late charge in the final minutes.
“We kind of sealed the game with Kenneth making the jump shot,” Karl said. “I thought that was great. The kid has tremendous heart and tremendous confidence for a young player.”
The same could be said of Lawson.
Picking up where he left off in Game 3, Lawson scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half and tied his playoff career-high with seven assists. His speed and assertiveness set the tone as the Nuggets raced out to a 24-point lead.
“Every game we’ve played, we’ve been down to the Lakers,” he said. “We’ve been down big and always trying to fight back. We wanted to make it a point to come out early and see what they did with a deficit. They reacted well to it, but we held on.”
The Lakers chipped away at the deficit as Bynum rebounded from a scoreless first half to score 18 after the break. Los Angeles got as close as five in the third quarter but hurt themselves with 15 turnovers that led to 20 Denver points.
The Nuggets also outrebounded the bigger Lakers 54-44 and outscored L.A. 52-32 in the paint.
“I thought that Denver’s two bigs Faried and McGee brought a lot of energy to the table,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “Their energy was really big for them. The possession game was won by the Nuggets because of those two.”
With a win under their belt, the Nuggets know the importance of validating their performance Sunday in Game 4.
Harrington said he plans to return despite his broken nose.
And why not? His team clearly has more than a puncher’s chance in the series.