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The Lakers will need to "rebound" after this loss

May 26, 2009 | 11:26 am

Yup, clever titles like that are why I get me the big dollars as a paid writer.

Kobe Byrant As I explained during last night's game summary, Game 4's 120-101 finish was the result of superior energy offered by the Denver Nuggets, the glass's disparity a most telling sign.  Rarely does getting beat 58-40 overall and allowing opponents a honkin' twenty boards on the offensive glass serve as a recipe for winning, and the Lakers weren't the exception proving the rule.  "We just didn't get to the ball," noted Phil Jackson of his team's lethargic showing (perhaps a painful reminder of why they needed to shorten the series against Houston).

Indeed, the Lakers didn't get to the ball as often as needed.  And when they did actually possess the rock, they didn't utilize it well, hitting just 42% of their shots.  Kobe Bryant led the way with 34 points, but sank just 10 of his 26 tries.  Pau Gasol was his usual dependable self, pitching in 21 points on an 8-11 clip from the field.  Beyond that, Crickets City.  Andrew Bynum showed some second half life en route to fourteen points, but that was about as good as she got for the purple and gold.  Even series hero/"potential keeper" Trevor Ariza was a no show.  With four games in the books and few Lakers stepping up on a consistent basis, the O.C. Register's Kevin Ding is wondering if anybody not named "Kobe" or "Pau" can be relied on.

Should Ding's concern prove more "realistic" than "pessimistic," that may put even more onus on El Spaniard to help carry the load.  Pau is cool with that, but first he needs to carry the ball more often, a request the Daily News' Ramona Shelburne reports is growing more pointed....

        Denver's far less talented and polished frontcourt players, Kenyon Martin (5-of-11, 13 points) and Nene (5-of-8, 14 points) took one more shot than the Lakers' All-Star power forward and future All-Star center. What's most troubling is that exploiting their frontcourt advantage with Gasol and Bynum doesn't even seem to be a focal point of the game plan.   "Obviously it wasn't the game plan tonight," Gasol said with an annoyed shrug. "It should've been. It should be in the game plan every night. At least for me. From my perspective. But obviously it wasn't and we didn't get the ball down low early on, we settled."

       Pau puts up a shot over Nene Earlier in the season, Gasol politely expressed his frustrations at his team's inexplicable propensity for forgetting it has an immensely talented, skilled offensive-minded low post threat. But he did not want to make it a distraction for his team, because the Lakers were winning so many games.  But after a loss like this, in a series he could've dominated, in a season in which he has played so well, Gasol was through being polite.  "It's frustrating because we lose games," he said. "I don't mind when we win, because the bottom line is, I want to win. But I feel like we have an advantage, and I'm effective, we should stay with what works and what's effective and not get away from it. It just doesn't make a lot of sense."

No argument from me, but even if Pau's shots and touches properly increase, the Lakers' supporting cast still needs to pick it up.  That could be the difference between a title and coming up short, says SI's Chris Mannix...

      Title-winning teams are deeper than two or even three star players. Where would the Lakers have been in 2002 without Robert Horry, who pulled their fat out of the fire with two game-saving three-pointers? (Come to think of it, would they have won any of their three championships this decade without Big Shot Rob?) Or where would the Spurs be without Bruce Bowen, whose pesky defense was  instrumental in San Antonio's raising three of its four banners?

      Championship teams need to be eight, sometimes nine players deep. They need significant contributions from their role players and more than just towel waving from their bench.

Certainly, Denver's second unit passed this test, picking up the slack on a night where Carmelo Anthony battled a sick stomach and a bad ankle.  J.R. Smith scored two dozen off the pine, twelve alone on three-point shots.  Still a major work in progress, the kid managed to balance an unquenchable thirst to chuck with some much needed play-making.  If only such restraint could be displayed when it comes to over the top reactions after a successful shot. 

Nba_g_jrsmith3_576 Late in the fourth, on the second of back-to-back three's, Smith busted a move somewhere between "funky chicken" and "George Jefferson strut," a display of theatrics that can only be described as "bush."  If the NBA is so concerned about emotions bubbling over (as one assumes, given the immediacy in which T's or flagrants are now doled out), perhaps they should send a memo Mr. Smith's way with a request to quit "showboating" (by his own admission).  To me, this stuff is carries as big a threat to spark skirmishes as a hard foul. 

Between Smith's antics and Dahntay Jones' proclivity for play that PJ called out as straight up "unsportsmanlike," CBS Sports' Ken Berger wonders if Denver is earning that "Thugget" reputation...

       There was a moment in the winning locker room Monday night that spoke volumes about Dahntay Jones' arrival to the Western Conference finals. It also exposed all these stories about the Nuggets' "growth" and "maturity" as, well, a little premature.   Jones was being interviewed about his blatant trip of Kobe Bryant in the third quarter of Game 4, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson calling it "unacceptable" and "unsportsmanlike basketball."

       It didn't take long for Jackson's comments to reach Jones' teammate, Kenyon Martin, who shouted from a few lockers away, "You made it, dog! You're a dirty player!"  Those are the Nuggets. Call them rugged, resilient, emotional, or whatever you want to call them after they evened the series at 2-2 with a 120-101 victory against the exhausted, dilapidated Lakers on Monday night.

      Just don't call them classy, because that's an argument you can't win right now.

Seriously, there's no need for the Nuggets to act like a WWE squad, particularly when they're already part of that act.

AK

Photo: J.R Smith showing off after a three pointer.  Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images


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