The Denver Nuggets were back -- emotionally unstable, combustible, imploding.
Just when one thought Denver had gotten past all its issues that have brought it down in the past, the old Nuggets returned for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Saturday night at the Pepsi Center.
The Nuggets were called for three technical fouls. They jacked up wild shots, failed to execute late and didn’t run their offense with precision.
As a result, the Nuggets lost, 103-97, to the Lakers and gave up the home-court advantage Denver had taken away from Los Angeles during a smart and clutch performance during Game 2 at Staples Center.
The Lakers hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I think emotionally it was a game we weren’t playing very well offensively,” Denver Coach George Karl said. “It seems like our offense frustrates us more than our defense. I thought in Game 2, the first half it was our offense. Tonight offensively, we just didn’t play with enough teamness.”
The Nuggets had eight-point leads in the first, second and third quarters and a seven-point lead in the fourth.
But instead of running their offense, the Nuggets went for the knockout far too often.
They were five for 27 (18.5%) from three-point range, one for eight (12.5%) in the fourth quarter when the Lakers ran the Nuggets down. They made just 39.3% of their shots.
And Carmelo Anthony, Denver’s big gun, had just 21 points on four-for-13 shooting, one for seven on three-pointers.
“Our offense was a little too impatient tonight from everybody, from me to everybody on down,” said Chauncey Billups, who had 18 points on five-for-15 shooting. “We were a little too impatient.”
A big reason why the Nuggets lost their first playoff game at home after winning their first six was because they lost their composure.
Linas Kleiza was called for a technical foul after Trevor Ariza made a three-pointer.
Anthony Carter was called for a technical foul after J.R. Smith made a three-pointer, and Smith was called for a technical foul after he made a three-pointer before the buzzer sounded to end the third.
“The kinds of techs that we had, those become big plays, man,” Billups said. “Those become huge plays at the end of the game.
“Just emotion. It’s not like we did it on purpose. It’s just emotions. It’s just emotions most of the times. We’ve probably got do a little bit better job controlling that. But those things count, man.”
The Nuggets had another late-game gaffe when Kenyon Martin threw away the inbounds pass as Denver trailed by two points.
It was just another of those bad moments for the Nuggets.
Game 4 is Monday night here, and the Nuggets get another crack at displaying which team they are.
“Every game is different,” Billups said. “Every game is its own story. It’s a tough loss for us. It’s unfortunate. But this is the Western Conference finals. This is great basketball. It’s going to be a great, long series. Try to tie this thing up on Monday.”