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NOTEBOOK: Depth benefits Nuggets with each playoff game

Lakers have four players averaging more than 35 minutes per game

Nuggets guard Andre Miller is among many key bench players who provide Denver with impressive depth.
Jeff Gross/NBAE/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES – The matchup between the Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers has typically been billed as a conflict of speed versus size.

As their intriguing Western Conference playoff series stretches to a sixth game, you can now add an element of endurance.

With a roster loaded with young legs, Denver has employed a nine-man rotation against Los Angeles, while the more experienced Lakers have primarily relied on seven players.

The Nuggets have no one averaging more than 34 minutes per game in the series, while the Lakers have four players logging more than 35 minutes a night: Kobe Bryant (40), Andrew Bynum (37.8), Pau Gasol (37.2) and Ramon Sessions (35.8).

It is something to keep in mind as the Nuggets continue to push the speed barrier when the series returns to altitude for Game 6 on Thursday.

“My hope is that is that fatigue will come our way,” Denver coach George Karl said. “The running of the game, the tempo of the game, and the pace the way we play … they’re getting tired of hearing it and you’re probably getting tired of hearing it, but our only chance to beat them is run them and play with tremendous energy and intensity.”

Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (33.9 minutes per game) and Danilo Gallinari (33.6) lead the team in court time, while Arron Afflalo (31.5) is the only other Denver player above the 30-minute mark.

On a related note, the Lakers will get starting forward Metta World Peace in the event of a seventh game. World Peace will complete his seven-game suspension Thursday for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden.

JACK’S WARNING: The Joker was nearly prophetic.

As the Nuggets enjoyed a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, Academy Award-winning actor Jack Nicholson shared a few words with Karl as he walked by the Lakers’ most recognizable fan.

“Jack mumbled something at about the 7-minute mark, saying something like, ‘It’s not over,’ ” Karl shared Wednesday. “I said, ‘I’ve been in this building. Don’t worry, I’ve been here before and lost, so I know it’s not over.’ ”

Behind four three-pointers by Bryant and a resurgence from Bynum, the Lakers cut the deficit to one point in the final minute before succumbing to Denver 102-99.

The scare reminded Karl of when Kevin Durant brought the Oklahoma City Thunder back from a nine-point deficit in the final minutes of Game 5 to close out the Nuggets a year ago.

“I can’t deny that I flashed back to Oklahoma City,” Karl said. “Fortunately we had a bigger lead in this game than we did down in Oklahoma City.”

OVERNIGHT STAY: The Nuggets were scheduled to return to Denver immediately after Game 5 had they been eliminated on Tuesday night. The itinerary changed with a victory.

“The whole thing about staying here is just get rested,” Karl said. “We didn’t want to take that trip where you went to bed at 4 o’clock in the morning and you wake up and feel awful for a day.”

The Nuggets watched film at their hotel Wednesday morning and were back home by mid-afternoon.

MINIMIZING MISCUES: Despite their pedal-to-the-metal philosophy, the Nuggets have done an impressive job taking care of the ball against the Lakers, averaging just 9.7 turnovers in the series.

Lawson and Andre Miller combined for 16 assists and one turnover in Game 5, bringing their totals to 62 assists and 13 turnovers in five games.

An admirer of Miller's veteran savvy and steady play, Karl is on record as saying he would like him back next season. Miller, a starter for nearly his entire career, accepted a reserve role this season and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“Being a starter pretty much my whole career and having to come to this situation and deal with a new role, I enjoyed it,” Miller said. “Whether I’m ready to settle in at that, I don’t know, but it’s definitely been a fun experience.”


Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for Nuggets.com, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...