Despite the Los Angeles Lakers easily look like the better team in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Denver Nuggets have proven once again to be formidable. They almost pulled off the win in Game 2 and cruised to a victory in Game 3. While Game 4 was close, the Lakers were able to hold them off to take the 3-1 lead.
While most teams would probably be panicking being in this situation, the Nuggets are uniquely equipped for this. They’ve already come back from two 3-1 deficits in these playoffs and could definitely do it again if the Lakers get sloppy. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone took a bit of a shot at the team when asked if this 3-1 deficit feels different than the previous two.
“No, not at all. We’ve been here twice, and we’ve answered the call.” Malone said, per The Denver Post’s Mike Singer. “To be honest, in the second round against the Clippers, they were the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing ahead of the Lakers.”
Just because the Clippers were favored over the Lakers to win the title doesn’t mean they were the better team. Most people would acknowledge now that the Lakers were the better of the two teams. Whether or not Malone will admit it, beating LeBron James in three straight games is a monumental task.
Malone Questions Amount of Fouls Called
The Lakers have played well for most of the series but Malone thinks it goes a little bit deeper than just getting outplayed. The coach questioned if the officiating in Game 4 was fair.
“I just know they went 35 [times] and we went 23,” Malone said, via ESPN. “I think late in the game Jamal Murray attacked the basket a few times where it appeared to be contact. We’ll watch the film and send our clips in. We’ll reach out to the NBA and kind of make our points noted. Whether them going through the proper channels affected tonight or not, I have no idea. The NBA does a great job of listening. You hope that next game maybe some of those fouls are called.”
The Lakers also went to the NBA about officiating issues recently so the Nuggets aren’t the only team with perceived problems.
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Malone Praises Dwight Howard
One of the reasons the Lakers had more success in Game 4 than they did in Game 3 was because of the decision to insert Dwight Howard into the starting lineup. The former All-Star played really strong in the early goings and record a double-double. He scored several second-chance points and Malone believes that played a big role in the loss.
“That was the reason we lost this game,” Malone said. “Most disappointing was it happened from the jump ball. I thought Dwight Howard in that first half had a tremendous impact on the game.”
“Possessions where we played really good defense,” Malone added, “and just didn’t finish it, which gave them extra possessions, extra life, extra opportunities. The ability to defend without fouling.”
The Lakers were dominated in the rebounding department in Game 3 but played much better in Game 4. If they can keep winning the rebounding battle, they will likely win the series.