JaVale McGee’s Solid Play Leads to Nuggets Victory over Lakers

The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers tonight 99-84 to make the series 2-1.  Although Ty Lawson’s speed, energy, and ‘never take the foot off pedal’ mentality fueled the Nuggets to a somewhat easy victory. The Lakers never really seemed to be in sync, and were obviously not able to establish their presence in the paint early on as seen in the first two games.

JaVale McGee’s performance was the epitome of a breakout game – the playoff newbie McGee scored seven total points in the first two games. McGee had 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks to go along with 2 steals and 2 assists. He had a +30 in the plus/minus category, the highest for any player on the court.

JaVale McGee has never been known for his intensity or focus throughout his NBAcareer, but things sure were different for ‘Pierre‘ as he managed to nullify and overpower the Lakers’ only true advantage, size.

For the first time ever, we has fans, critics, and bloggers ran out of jokes while watching him play. Twitter wasn’t filled with jabs at the player’s mental lapses on the court, and most definitely was not flooded with comments questioning McGee’s heart or work-ethic. JaVale used his length in the post effectively maybe for the first time in his whole career. Maybe a big reason for his productive night was that his mom was present at the game, watching as her son looked like an all-star against Bynum and the Lakers. Pam McGee was a fantastic basketball player, winning two NCAA titles at USC and a gold medal for Team USA.

Something to notice- The Nuggets refused to double-team Kobe Bryant, knowing that doing so could free up a Lakers post player. By using a combination of players like Arron Afflalo or Danilo Gallinari in his face, Bryant shot just 5-for-12 in the first half. After scoring 31 and 38 points in the first two games, the Laker leader put in 22 tonight, shooting 7-for-23 from the field.

Although both Bynum and Bryant got it going, specifically in the third quarter, and the Lakers cut their deficit to four points, the hole was just too big to climb out of. Bynum finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but was easily ‘out-impacted’ and ‘out-hustled’ by McGee. JaVale, while not all that skilled, just put forth the playoff effort, while Bynum looked ready for a name. Even the way Bynum stood on dead ball moments showed his exhaustion.

First Quarter Woes– Let’s be honest, the game got out of hand early for Los Angeles. Second-chance opportunities for Denver killed LA earlier, who had a 30-14 lead after the opening quarter. In the opening quarter, Denver had six offensive rebounds which gave them a total of 26 shot attempts for the quarter, as opposed to 19 for the Lakers. Offensive rebounds tend to yield easier looks, explaining Denver’s 50% shooting in that opening quarter. The Lakers, on the other hand, were cold out of the gate, missing 12 of their first 19 shots, and failing to secure an offensive rebound on any of them.

Side note- Al Harrington suffered a broken nose after being elbowed in the face by Andrew Bynum during the fourth quarter, reports ESPN’s sideline man Ric Bucher. Harrington bled on the court after being hit.

In conclusion, tonight’s game was about LA not establishing themselves in the post. Denver made the right tactical changes, sent bodies and the Lakers couldn’t find space, leading to horrendous ball movement, and outside shooting. For Denver, it just comes to do their shots falling early. If that continues, we’ll have an extremely competitive series. The Lakers need to remember to play inside-out, because it really is their only chance at any sort of playoff success.

Denver will try to even the best-of-seven series at two games each on Sunday at the Pepsi Center.

P.S. Can JaVale try dunking on this hoop for next year’s dunk contest?