Dribbles: LeBron great, but lack of little things doom Lakers

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Los Angeles Lakers' 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday.

1. On this night, the Nuggets just played with more energy, made all of the important shots (here's looking at you, Jamal Murray) and just did the little things a whole lot better.

2. Frankly, this was about as bad as the Lakers have looked in the postseason. The Nuggets had something to do with that. But so did the Lakers. They were just sort of ... flat.

3. And man, that Anthony Davis buzzer-beater in Game 2 sure seems a lot bigger now. The Lakers still lead the series, 2-1, but just think what people would be saying if Davis had missed.

4. This time, the Nuggets built a 20-point lead and held on after the Lakers' last gasp. So again, it's safe to assume good old-fashioned hustle and determination early was the difference.

5. As the Nuggets did in overcoming series deficits in the previous two rounds, they received contributions from just about everyone, in some way. Murray was brilliant with 28 points. Jerami Grant wasn't half bad himself with 26. And Nikola Jokic scored 22 and grabbed 10 rebounds.

6. LeBron James was also fantastic -- 30 points, 11 assists and 10 boards for yet another playoff triple-double. But as Charles Barkley used to say when LeBron was with the Cavs, "Less LeBron and more of the other guys" is often the key to winning.

7. That's not meant to imply James was selfish or trying to play "hero" ball. Clearly, his numbers indicate an extremely unselfish performance. But if the Lakers are going to reach the Finals, it can't be a case of All LeBron and Davis, All the Time.

8. Davis finished with 27 points, but just two rebounds. Along with that, only one other member of the Lakers scored at least 12 points (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope).

9. Then again, offense wasn't nearly as much of a problem as defense. The Nuggets shot 57 percent from the floor and 38 percent on 3-pointers. The Lakers have been good defensively for most of the playoffs, but their crispness just wasn't there when it came to rotations and making hustle plays on this night.

10. A good example of that was how the Nuggets obliterated the Lakers on the glass, owning a whopping 44-25 rebounding advantage. If you take out James, the Lakers collected a measly 15 rebounds.

11. Their issues shooting threes also returned -- as it was something that really haunted them during the seeding games. The Lakers finished a miserable 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. That included a 2-of-10 night from the bench.

12. Both LeBron and Lakers coach Frank Vogel indicated everyone seemed too content to just settle for jumpers, as they sort of just heaved the ball at the basket when all seemed lost. "We’re getting great looks every time we touch the paint," Vogel told reporters. "We have to be more aggressive."

13. But, whatever. The Lakers escaped last time and got beat in this one. So if this doesn't serve as a wake-up call ...

14. Former Cavs Watch: Danny Green took four shots and scored just four points. J.R. Smith (coach's decision) and Dion Waiters (groin) did not play.

15. Follow SI Lakers reporter Melissa Rohlin for the day-to-day coverage and more on LA. She does an outstanding job. Game 4 is Thursday night.

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