Three Things to Know 20200926

Lakers vs. Nuggets, Game 5: Three Things to Know (9/26/20)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

With a 114-108 victory in Game 4, the Lakers took a commanding 3-1 series lead over Denver in the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets have twice come back from 3-1 deficits against Utah and the Clippers, a fact of which the Lakers are very much aware. Below are three things to know heading into Game 5:

ANTHONY’S ANKLE
With 6:44 left in Game 4, and L.A. leading 96-92, Anthony Davis rose for a jump shot, and made light contact with Paul Millsap’s leg on his way down, rolling his left ankle in the process. Davis stayed on the floor for a while writhing in pain, but then he got up, walked it off as best he could, and played the remainder of the game.

He was moving decently, and finished the quarter with 10 points on 2 of 2 FG’s and 6 of 7 FT’s, grabbed four of his five rebounds, including a key late offensive board. After the game, I asked him how his ankle was feeling.

“Ankle feels fine,” he said. “I got tonight, tomorrow, before the (next) game to get it (better).”

Davis added that he rolled it “pretty bad, but not too bad,” then again said, “I’ll be fine.”

On Friday, Vogel spoke to media members and was asked about AD’s ankle, in addition to LeBron’s thigh, since James was kneed in the thigh early in Game 4.

“Both are experiencing some soreness but are good to go,” said Vogel.

That, obviously, is very important to hear.

In 14 postseason games this season, which eclipse the 13 career playoff games Davis had played in his first seven seasons, here are his averages:

AD in 2020 playoffs: 28.9 points on 57.6% FG’s, 66.2% TS, 9.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.1 steals, 30.4 PER, +13.1 net rating.

Those are all-time great postseason stats, and the Lakers will be hoping a sore ankle doesn’t hinder AD’s ability to play his game too much. With that said, Davis can impact a game in so many ways, he’s a major net positive regardless of how he’s able to move around the floor.

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FLIPPING THE BOARDS AND TURNOVER SCRIPT
Frank Vogel highlighted two areas where the Lakers needed to be much better after they got pounded 44-25 on the boards in Game 3, turned the ball 24 times in Game 2 and allowed 25 points of 16 Game 3 turnovers. His players responded.

In Game 4, the Lakers controlled the glass 41-33 despite Denver’s hot shooting night (50.6 percent) limiting rebounding opportunities. Led by Dwight Howard, starting in place of JaVale McGee, L.A. attacked the offensive glass for a 12-6 edge, including six O boards from Howard, who put four of them back for first quarter buckets that got the Lakers going. With Dwight all over the backboard, and LeBron grabbing nine himself, Davis was again limited on the glass. He only had one board through three quarters, but he moved over to the five in the fourth quarter, and grabbed four boards in the 4th alone, including a late offensive rebound that helped the Lakers secure the game.

Meanwhile, L.A. took much better care of the basketball, totaling 11 turnovers for the game, and only six through the first three quarters. That marked a new series low, and LeBron gets much of the credit. He had zero turnovers, after totaling six apiece in each of the previous two games, plus three in Game 1. Instead, he notched eight assists, moving him to within 30 of catching John Stockton (1,839) for second all-time, behind only Magic Johnson (2,346).

The glass will be a good indicator for how Game 5 goes as well, with the Nuggets surely putting a huge emphasis on rebounding after they watch the tape. Of course, that’s easier said than done especially with Howard in the starting lineup.

FREE THROWS AND FOULS
Much has been made of the foul calls and resulting free throws in this series, but turns out, it’s been much ado about nothing.

In any NBA game, both teams are going to find calls that coulda/shoulda/woulda gone their way. In Game 4, LeBron got smacked from behind by Torrey Craig in the first half on a drive to the rim, but didn’t get the call. Then in the fourth quarter, LeBron looked to have hit Jamal Murray’s arm on a shot at the rim, but no call was made. That’s basketball. After games, coaches or players will be asked about certain calls, and it’s incumbent upon the coach specifically to stand up for his player, and suggest that they might send in a note to the NBA. Vogel mentioned as much after Game 3, when LeBron was only awarded two foul shots despite 23 field goal attempts, including many at the rim. And Nuggets coach Mike Malone said after Game 4 that he’d be sending clips to the league.

But here’s the thing. Every team has a member of its coaching staff send clips to the NBA of plays they felt weren’t called correctly, and it happens every game. There’s a website specifically devoted to the practice. That’s nothing new. We should always remember that refereeing NBA games is incredibly challenging, not just due to the speed and physicality of the game, but because both teams are often trying to sell fouls on both sides of the court, often simultaneously. Mistakes will happen.

In this Western Conference Finals, the Lakers should have an advantage at the free throw line based on the athleticism and size of their frontcourt in particular, but so far, it’s been dead even in terms of free throw attempts. There’s no argument to be made that the referees have decided anything through four games.

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