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NBA playoffs: Lakers being outworked by Denver

By Gregg Patton
The (Riverside) Press-EnterpriseDENVER ó For the Los Angeles Lakers, a sweep in Denver was too much to hope for.
And maybe even work for.
If rebounding is the labor-intensive stat in a box score, then it was easy to identify how Denver constructed the win in Game 4 that evened the series at two games apiece.
If defense is about moving your feet and beating your man to the spot, and not fouling, it was easy to understand the Nuggets’ 120-101 victory Monday night.
“We’ve been shown a lot of video ó that rebounding is a big part of this series,” said George Karl, whose Denver team won the battle of the boards 58-40.
His team also went to the foul line 49 times (to the Lakers’ 35) in a game that turned into a two-hour-and-54-minute hack-fest.
This wasn’t the kind of shameful letdown that the Lakers gave in to in Houston. They have too much respect for Denver to get lazy. But with a game in their pocket and home-court advantage still assured, the Lakers didn’t have the kind of fourth-quarter push that enabled them to rally past the Nuggets in Games 1 and 3.
The problem on the boards, though, was chronic, from start to finish.
“We just didn’t get to the ball,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “They were beating us to the ball a lot of times inside. Their offensive-rebound disparity was quite obvious.”
Jackson laid some of that at the feet (literally) of his perimeter defenders who let Denver penetrate, getting his bigs out of rebounding position or piling up the fouls.
But even so, a few players came with something zealously extra ó most of them Nuggets.
Kenyon Martin (15), Nene (13) and Chris Andersen (14) grabbed 42 rebounds among them, collectively out-rebounding the Lakers, whose top guy, Pau Gasol, picked off 10.
If the rebounding hurt, so did the fouls. The Nuggets scored 37 points from the line to the Lakers’ 24.
“We got back to being an attack-the-rim team,” Karl said.
In any case, it was the first lopsided game of the series. The Lakers tried playing possum again, a hang-back strategy that had worked for all three winners to date in the series. Each had overcome a double-digit deficit to win.
Monday, trying to draft off the pace car was strictly a NASCAR ploy. The Nuggets led all the way, and instead of getting passed in the homestretch, pulled away ó this time hitting the three-point “home runs” (as Karl tagged them) that kept the separation they built the first three quarters.
The Lakers also seemingly had a golden opportunity to take control of the series, with Denver’s top scorer, Carmelo Anthony, having a horrendous shooting night (3 of 16).
“That’s the game you should beat them,” Lakers forward Lamar Odom said.
But the Nuggets, obviously, aren’t a one-Melo-note team anymore ó winning on a night Anthony was suffering the effects of a stomach virus and a twisted ankle he turned in the first half.
He wasn’t the only misfiring star, though.
This time Kobe Bryant’s game-high 34 points weren’t enough, either, partly because he hit only 10 of 26 shots to get them.
The best news for the Lakers was they’re going home, where, if they’re ready, the likes of Martin, Nene and Andersen won’t give them another dose of high-altitude sickness.

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