As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition he revels in the fatal Game 3 victory.
The beaches were closed in San Diego on Saturday due to a fatal great white shark attack the day before. A 66-year-old retired veterinarian was swimming with a group of fellow triathaletes-in-training when the attack occurred around 7 a.m.
It was the first fatality by shark attack in Southern California since a great white killed a woman in 1994 at Ocean Beach in San Diego – coincidentally, the same year that the Denver Nuggets last won a playoff series. The Nuggets, also an eight seed that year, upset the number one seeded Seattle SuperSonics, coached by none other than George Karl.
Over a thousand miles away, one could argue that a second fatal attack took place on land Saturday in the Mile High City at The Pepsi Center, but instead of the ferocious jaws of a great white shark delivering the devastating bite, it was two veterans from the Lakers last trip to the NBA Finals who severed the Nuggets’ arteries.
A further autopsy of the Denver Nuggets after the jump…
Fluke Walton and Derek Fisher combined for 29 points on 11-15 shooting from the floor and five assists. They saved their best play for a key third quarter run that sealed the deal as the Lakers administered a beatdown Saturday evening in Denver, cruising to a 102-84 victory over a Nuggets team that looked stunned by the fate of their season.
Of course, Kobe was great (22 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists – but only 1-8 from beyond the arc), and Gasol and Odom chipped in with solid games.
But in a pivotal stretch of the 3rd quarter when the Nuggets had quickly cut the Lakers’ 18 point lead down to 10 and Phil Jackson was forced to call a rare timeout – the Pepsi Center truly rocking for the first time all evening – it was Derek Fisher and Fluke Walton who led the charge. Fisher notched eight points and one steal, and Walton dropped two key dimes over a period of three minutes that helped restore the Lakers lead to 19 points by quarter end.
Game, and series, over.
This was the kind of game that’s fun to watch as a fan, your team playing well and simply kicking the ass of the other team – and on their home court no less. Unlike a close game, you can sit back and enjoy the proceedings without being so nervous.
Plus, the Lakers finally played some defense.
The Nuggets had the second highest scoring average in the league during the regular season at 111. To hold the Nuggets to 84 is phenomenal, even though the Nuggets didn’t help their cause by shooting a meager 37 percent.
Looking ahead, Utah and the Spurs are going to force the Lakers to play their best defense of the year to advance, and the Purple and Gold finally looked like they were up to that challenge in this game.
I had predicted in Volume Two that the Lakers would suffer a letdown in game three and lose.
I’m quite happy to be wrong.
I predicted in Volume One that the Lakers would reach the finals this year if they beat the Nuggets in five games.
I never even imagined the Lakers would sweep.
Thanks to Walton, Fisher and a renewed commitment to defense, the Lakers just might.
My prediction this time?
It’s going to end ugly if the Lakers can maintain their composure and continue to play good defense. Expect at least two Nuggets’ players to be ejected in the fourth quarter if Denver loses by double digits for the fourth consecutive game.
Tempers will flare.
And the Lakers will advance.
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