Short memory key as Nuggets return home to take on L.A.
Lakers-Nuggets, Pepsi Center, 8:30 p.m. MT
LOS ANGELES – As the Nuggets prepared for a post-breakfast film session Wednesday, coach George Karl walked to front of the room and handled the opening credits.
There was plenty of praise to go around 12 hours after Denver kept its season alive with an inspired victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in their Western Conference playoff series.
Karl made a point of telling forward Al Harrington that he had helped space the floor for his teammates without making a shot. He praised center Timofey Mozgov for setting the tone with his physical defense, and he singled out rookie Kenneth Faried for running the floor at every opportunity.
The coach commended point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller for distributing and taking care of the ball (16 assists, one turnover), while Arron Afflalo, Corey Brewer, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee also received their due for contributions essential to the team victory.
“Everybody did something pretty incredible last night,” Karl told his players.
A few minutes later, he added another message: Enjoy the moment for a couple hours but erase it from memory by the time you land back in Denver.
“We’ve got to worry about just controlling our happiness,” Karl said. “The real serious game is coming up Thursday night. If we’re fortunate to figure out how to win that game, we get an opportunity to play an incredible seventh game.”
Based on their attitude in the wake of Game 5, short-term memory loss shouldn’t be a problem for the Nuggets, who trail the best-of-seven series 3-2 and face a possible return to Los Angeles for Game 7.
“That game’s forgotten,” McGee said. “It’s a good win, but we’re still down in the series. We have to win two more games and we have to come back to L.A. if we win the next game. It’s not going to be easy.”
McGee made the game look easy at times Tuesday night, beating the Lakers down the floor for dunks and attacking the offensive glass to create second chances for himself and his teammates. In all, McGee finished with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Karl said he has never coached a 7-footer with the athleticism of someone 6-6, and McGee’s teammates raved at his progress in the series.
“He has a lot of potential and he’s living up to it right now,” Lawson said. “If he keeps working, he’ll be one of the best centers in the league. I’m excited for him. He’s a great talent and he’s playing well right now.”
After finishing an on-court television interview immediate after the victory, McGee added to his stat line by throwing the game ball to his mother Pamela sitting with family in the 200 level of Staples Center.
“It was like Peyton Manning,” McGee said of his assist. “It was right on target. It landed right in her hands, knocked the popcorn off.”
The next challenge for McGee and the Nuggets will be knocking off the Lakers again at Pepsi Center. In 26 all-time playoff meetings, Denver has never won consecutive games against Los Angeles.
To end that streak, Denver will have to continue to rebound, run, defend the paint and take nothing for granted.
“After Game 3, you start building circumstances of how the series could play out, and then things take a huge twist when you lose (Game 4),” Afflalo said. “We know the twist if we lose now. To be that excited about something that only extended the series – not put us in the next round – would make no sense.”
It’s an attitude that will serve the Nuggets well as they try to prevent the closing credits from rolling on their season.