The Lakers did exceedingly well at some of the things they worked on after Game 2. The got the ball into the lane, scored 14 points in the paint, played better transition defense, and got Derek Fisher’s shot going. They did not however, shoot very well from the free throw line, shooting an atrocious 4-for-10 at the charity stripe in the first quarter. The Nuggets were 11-for-13 from the line, including 7-of-8 from Carmelo Anthony.
NUGGETS 28, LAKERS 26
Both teams allow way too much dribble penetration, but neither team shoots particularly well from the floor. Denver hits just eight of its 23 shots (39 percent), the Lakers make eight of 20 (40 percent). Denver goes on a 13-5 run to turn a 39-39 game into a 52-44 lead on Linus Kleiza’s fast break dunk, but the Lakers close out the half well, getting a 3-pointer from Trevor Ariza and technical foul shot by Kobe Bryant to cut the lead back to four. Denver’s Chris Andersen scores 10 points in the quarter.
NUGGETS 52, LAKERS 48
Two of the game’s coldest shooters finally get hot. First Denver’s JR Smith hits a 3-pointer after missing his first six shots, then the Lakers Sasha Vujacic hits a 3-pointer from the top of the key for his first field goal of the game. Smith drills another triple at the end of the quarter after beating Vujacic to a loose ball, sending the Pepsi Center crowd into a frenzy. The only good news for the Lakers is they manage to hold Carmelo Anthony scoreless in the period, he misses his only two shots and picks up his fourth foul.
NUGGETS 79, LAKERS 71
The Lakers tighten up their defense, forcing the Nuggets to miss their first nine shots of the quarter, and allowing the Lakers to take the lead 83-81 on Kobe Bryant’s 16-foot jumper with 6:46 to go. The Nuggets regain some composure, and even the lead, 95-93 on JR Smith’s jumper with 1:30 to go, but Bryant isn’t about to let the Lakers lose this game. He scores eight of the Lakers final 10 points, Trevor Ariza comes up with another big steal and the Pepsi Center crowd exits in stunned silence.
LAKERS 103, NUGGETS 97
It wasn’t the dramatic, end of the game dagger like LeBron James hit Friday night to win Game 2 for the Cavaliers, but Kobe Bryant’s 3-pointer over JR Smith with 1:08 remaining the game, was no less important. Bryant had 41 points on 12-of-24 shooting, but no shot was bigger than the 3-pointer he drained in front of Smith to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish. He scored eight of the Lakers final 10 points.
After two stellar games in Los Angeles, Carmelo Anthony was a non-factor in the decisive second half in Game 3. He managed just three points after halftime, all on free throws before fouling out with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Anthony finished with just 21 points after scoring 72 in the first two games.
Consecutive shots missed by the Nuggets to start the fourth quarter. Denver’s 79-71 lead evaporated within five and a half minutes.