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Nuggets and their fans don’t come through when it counts

from denver

Before Game 3, I asked Phil Jackson if the reports were true, and he wasn’t talking to Andrew Bynum?

“None of your business,” he said.

“Is any of this our business?” I asked, wondering why they scheduled a press conference before the game only to find out the press wasn’t supposed to ask questions.

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“Some of it is,” he said. “Reaction is your business.”

OK, so here’s my reaction after watching the Nuggets collapse under the glare of big-time basketball.

It’s over, the Lakers are going to be playing for the NBA title, and you really have to admire the way Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, Derek Fisher and Bynum have saved themselves during these playoffs.

They’re going to be really fresh for Cleveland or Orlando.

There might have been a few anxious moments the last few weeks and everyone wondering if Jackson was on top of his game, but the Lakers needed only four or five active players on their roster to get past Utah, Houston and Denver.

Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were a combined 24 for 44 to beat Denver, while the rest of the roster shot nine for 28.

Just think how good the team will be when everyone plays all out for the Lakers.

In what might very well be the biggest game ever played to date in Nuggets franchise history, which goes to show you they don’t have much history here, Carmelo Anthony opted not to participate.

Anthony got a good write-up in most of the newspapers after the last two games, and good for him, but he obviously can’t be depended on like Bryant or LeBron James.

Vujacic had one more field goal than Anthony in the second half, a miracle, as you know, that he had one -- but still more than Anthony.

As a result, the Nuggets proved to be championship frauds, still trying to master the eighth-grade out-of-bounds play on the sideline.

With everyone dressed in UCLA blue and gold here, Ariza must have felt right at home, stealing two wins so far for the Lakers -- just the way Ben Howland would have drawn them up before losing the game because his team is short on offense.

(Drives me crazy.)

“I thought we made big plays down the stretch with the big guys,” Jackson said after the Lakers’ gritty win, and that was after mentioning Ariza, Bryant and Gasol.

The Lakers still need two more victories after gutting the Nuggets to make it official, but that will give Jackson time to start working the no-shows into the mix.

Don’t know what can be done about Fisher at this point, other than strapping handcuffs on him so he can’t shoot anymore, but then what’s Jackson’s other option?

Some folks have suggested Jordan Farmar, even though a bigger and more physical guard such as Chauncey Billups treats him like a speed bump.

Like Jackson, I keep waiting for Fisher to get hot -- having seen it happen so often over the years, and I’d love to see the look on Jackson’s face when he realizes we think alike.

Vujacic is a lost cause, but Odom is different, a hero in a way for disrupting the Nuggets’ attempt to inbound the ball, but eight points, seven rebounds and lots of wandering here and there in almost 30 minutes of play only feeds the criticism he can’t always be depended on.

He probably gives the Lakers the best chance for a lift at some point, but how often have we all said that?

Then there’s Bynum, who was two for six from the field and logged four rebounds in a little more than 20 minutes. One of those rebounds came off a missed free throw, the 7-footer just standing in the right spot.

Has there been anything more confounding in these playoffs, other than the Lakers’ lack of killer instinct, than Bynum’s inability to do much?

Bynum said he hadn’t talked to Phil, and Phil said it was probably a timing thing -- Andrew complaining to the newspapers, Phil hearing about it and then talking to him before anyone made a bigger deal out of it.

Had Phil talked more to Shaq and Kobe they might’ve won who knows how many more rings.

Phil said Bynum’s “tolerance level on the floor is about four to five minutes -- eight minutes maximum,” while Bynum said the problem is he never gets to play enough.

“He has never expressed that to me,” Jackson said. “We sit together in film sessions and communicate together about some of the things I’d like to see him do better.”

We would all like to see him do things better, and more than likely we will a year, or maybe two or three years from now when he might very well be the Lakers’ centerpiece.

So what’s the rush? They’ve already ended the season for Utah, Houston and Denver without him.

They get anything from Fisher, Odom or Bynum and even this whole business of whether they have the killer instinct that one might expect from a championship team isn’t even an issue.

Just a thought as they get ready to put the Nuggets away on Monday night.

THE OTHER day I mentioned that Phil’s girlfriend might’ve become a distraction, so what happens, no one hears a tweet out of Jeanie Buss during Game 3.

THIS DIDN’T sound good at the time. Before Game 3 Coach George Karl said the Nuggets had not studied videotape of Houston as much as they had of Boston.

“I was shocked Boston won last year,” Karl said. “We think we play more like Boston than Houston. Our big guys are more like their big guys.”

The Celtics beat the Lakers in six games. The Nuggets don’t have Kevin Garnett.

EVERYONE TALKED this place up like the home-court advantage was something special, but I’ve been to Clippers games that were louder.

Not recently, mind you, because it is the playoffs.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com


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