Give Pau the damn ball!

Honestly, it’s amazing he has held his tongue this long:

DENVER — He has tried being polite. Tried to hint, to make his point with his play, to let the Lakers coaching staff correct what is so obviously wrong in games like Monday night’s 120-101 loss to the Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

But polite isn’t working.

Actually, polite is hurting the team.

And so Pau Gasol finally dropped the nice act after Monday’s unnecessary loss and said what has become clear as the crisp air here in the Rocky Mountains.

“I wish we would take more advantage of our height and the inside game, because it’s pretty effective. It’s unfortunate that we don’t recognize it enough,” the 7-foot Gasol said after making eight of his 11 shots, but watching his teammates jack up a ridiculous 31 shots from behind the 3-point arc.

“I don’t know what to do anymore to be able to get a couple more looks. Like I said, I’ve been pretty effective all season long, and in the playoffs, and I want to continue to be able to help us have a better chance of winning ball games. I think I’ve been doing that. I just haven’t had a chance to do it enough.”

In the four games of this series, Gasol is shooting an efficient 62.5 percent from the field, making 25 of his 40 shots from the field.

And yet in the second half of Monday’s loss, as the Lakers were trying to rally and win a game that could’ve given them a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series, he took just four shots.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson offered little by way of explanation. Asked if there was any reason Gasol didn’t get the ball more, Jackson said: “No. You can ask him when he comes in about it.

“Some of it is ball movement. Some of it is their defense. Some of it is their help defense that’s coming down. Some of it, I’m sure is the amount of touches he’s actually getting in the post.”

In nearly every series they play, the Lakers have a dominant size advantage over their opponent. Gasol stands 7-feet tall, Andrew Bynum is a shade north of that and Lamar Odom is 6-foot-10.

But against these Nuggets, whose tallest starter is the 6-foot-11 Nene, you’d hardly even notice.

Monday night, Gasol and Bynum combined to make 14 of their 18 shots. Denver’s far less talented and polished front court players, Kenyon Martin (5 of 11, 13 points) and Nene (5 of 8, 14 points) took one more shot as the Lakers All-Star power forward and future All-Star center.
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Nuggets 120, Lakers 101

FIRST QUARTER
Carmelo Anthony is stone cold from the floor, missing his first eight shots from the field. Nene and Kenyon Martin combine for 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers are just as cold, getting nine points from Kobe Bryant and just 10 from everyone else

NUGGETS 22, LAKERS 19

SECOND QUARTER

The Nuggets to on an 8-0 to open the quarter and extend their lead out to as much as 39-24 before the Lakers come back. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol lead the Lakers on a 18-6 run to cut into the lead.

NUGGETS 52, LAKERS 45

THIRD QUARTER

The Lakers resort to shooting a bunch of 3-pointers and it doesn’t go well. Sasha Vujacic finally makes one, but it’s too little too late. LA is 3-for-9 in the period from behind the arc, contributing to its poor overall shooting and embarrassing 47-29 rebounding deficit.

NUGGETS 77, LAKERS 66

FOURTH QUARTER

The Lakers hang around within striking distance until Denver goes on an 18-7 run to stretch the lead out to 120-99 on Dahntay Jones dunk with under a minute to go

HERO
JR Smith had had a rather miserable series until Monday night, scoring just 21 points on 25 percent shooting in the first three games. Monday night he turned all that around, shooting 7-of-19 from the field and nailing four 3-pointers to finish with 24 points. In a game where Carmelo Anthony was hobbled by an ankle injury and a stomach issue, the Nuggets could not have won without Smith.

GOAT
Hard to pick just one Laker as the team combined to shoot a wretched 9 of 31 from behind the 3-point arc and 24-of-35 at the free throw line. Kobe Bryant kept the Lakers in it with 34 points, so we’ll forgive his 2-for-10 from behind the 3-point arc. Hard to overlook Derek Fisher’s 1-for-5 though.

STAT
58-40
Margin by which the Nuggets out-rebounded the Lakers in Monday’s 120-101 win. Twenty of those rebounds came off the offensive glass.

QUOTE

“I’m probably not going to be calling timeout if I don’t have to. Because I think Odom is going to be covering the sonofa(gun), whoever I put in there.”

–Denver coach George Karl on whether he’s drawn up any new inbounds plays after Trevo Ariza’s two steals at the ends of Games 1 and 3.

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Nuggets 77, Lakers 66

The Lakers resort to shooting a bunch of 3-pointers and it doesn’t go well. Sasha Vujacic finally makes one, but it’s too little too late. LA is 3-for-9 in the period from behind the arc, contributing to its poor overall shooting and embarrassing 47-29 rebounding deficit.

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NUGGETS 52, LAKERS 45 (HALF)

The Nuggets to on an 8-0 to open the quarter and extend their lead out to as much as 39-24 before the Lakers come back. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol lead the Lakers on a 18-6 run to cut into the lead.

Carmelo Anthony hurts his ankle about three times, but is able to stay in the game.

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Nuggets 22, Lakers 19

Carmelo Anthony is stone cold from the floor, missing his first eight shots from the field. Nene and Kenyon Martin combine for 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers are just as cold, getting nine points from Kobe Bryant and just 10 from everyone else

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Lamar Odom wearing extra padding

Lamar Odom said he’ll be wearing some extra padding on his bruised lower back in tonight’s Game 4 vs. the Nuggets. He was not wearing anything substantial on it in Game 3 and paid the price on several occasions.

“I’ve you think about posting up or boxing out, I don’t think anybody is purposely trying to elbow me or hit me in the back, but just in case they do, I go a little football pad (back there),” Odom said.

Odom has been sore and bruised since injuring his back in a hard fall in Game 4 of the Houston series.

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Bulletin board material?

Denver coach George Karl said Sunday that the first three games of the series were so close, viewers at home watching without a scoreboard, may not have been able to tell who won the game.

“If you didn’t have a scoreboard, took all three games and put them out there and say who won, I don’t know, I think most people it would be a tossup,” Karl said.

Then he went quite a bit further.

“People would say I think Denver played better,” Karl said. “If you saw it again, what I’m saying don’t put a scoreboard on, just watch the games, I think you would think we were a better team.”

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Sunday practice report

There were a lot of weary looking Lakers on the Pepsi Center court Sunday morning. This series, this season, has clearly taken a toll on them.

But as Pau Gasol said, “It’s definitely easier to recover when you win. You just have to keep your mindset aggressive and realize that if we win tommorrow we’re going to have a huge advantage in this series and hopefully we’ll be able to take it.”

Kobe Bryant said he took an IV yesterday after the game, then went straight to bed and slept until the team meeting at 10:30 a.m. When we chatted at practice, he again had a water bottle in his hand. He grabbed a seat along the courtside in order to rest his legs…

“My wife called me and said, `Man, you look like (crap), Get some sleep man,’ ” Bryant joked. “I didn’t eat no breakfast or nothing. I just got home and slept until the meeting this morning. Brutal.”

Like Gasol though. Bryant seemed determined to find the energy to try and take Game 4 here tommorrow night.

“We’ve got two more series. We’ve just got to get through it,” he said. “There’s two more series. We can be tired in August.”

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Inside the locker rooms

DENVER — The Lakers rallied for a victory in Game 3 tonight over the Nuggets, 103-97. Here’s what they were saying after the Lakers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series:

Lakers coach Phil Jackson: “It was kind of a ragged game in many ways, with inconsistency. Both teams fed into it … but we had the ability to pull it out. Trevor (Ariza) made a big steal down at the end and it changed the complexity of that game.”

Jackson on what the Lakers did differently against Carmelo Anthony (21 points): “I’m not sure. I’m going to have to look at that on tape. He took a couple of jump shots that were contested. He had, I thought, a pretty good first half. The second half, he didn’t play a lot because of foul trouble, but I think our identification was better on what he was going to do, on picks he was going to be coming off, where he wanted the ball, some those those things were much better tonight.”

Kobe Bryant on his fatigue near the end of the game. Was it the altitude? The Nuggets’ rugged defense against him? The wear and tear of a seven-game series against Houston and now this one? “It’s a little bit of everything. I haven’t had a break for three years now, and the team’s been leaning on me, trying to beat me up, and I try to dish it out, too. that makes you tired, too. But you gotta do what you gotta do. And you need support, too, and Pau (Gasol) gave me the support I needed for about three straight plays. I didn’t have anything (in the tank). I just laid on the baseline and tried to rest and Pau made some big shots, and bought me some time.”

Denver guard Chauncey Billups: “It’s very frustrating. Great opportunity we missed out on. We knew it was going to be tough. They (the Lakers) knew the importance of this game as well. you know, they played good. We played hard, but not smart most of the time in the game. I thought our offense was a little too impatient tonight, from everybody, from me all the way on down. … And it hurt us. It hurt us in a lot of different ways.”

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