North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

As Melo goes, so go the Nuggets

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Funny how things seem to repeat themselves isn’t it?

Another boneheaded inbounds pass; another quick move by Trevor Ariza… another win for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

It was a fitting end to another late game collapse by the Nuggets and another late game vanishing act by Carmelo Anthony.

As this series shifted back to Denver for game three, things felt odd; there was a weird vibe to the match: Three’s launched all over the over the place, bodies being pushed around, crazy shots that had no business hitting – Smith’s long-bomb three at the end of the third quarter or Billups’ four-point play – were dropping.

Though the Lakers leads were far and few between – they didn’t lead in the second or third quarters – the fourth was again, again a roller coaster – not a steel one with loops and drops and sharp twists, but more like a wooden one where the cart whistles around the track, almost seeming at the edge of oblivion.

The Nuggets held a sizeable lead for most of the game and kept the Lakers at bay. But they also picked up fouls, kept running into walls and had possessions that never seemed to go anywhere.

It’s why the Lakers never went away. About midway through the fourth, the Lakers roared back and took an 81-80 lead on a long three by Ariza. They kept the pressure on the Nuggets, who couldn’t pull away, but stalled offensively; they had four turnovers at one point, capped when Nene (saddled with five fouls) stepped in front of Vujacic.

So, fairly predictably, it was Kobe who carried the Lakers offence. He hit some nice jumpers, including a three to give them a one-point lead with just over a minute left, and made clutch free throws.

On the other side of the ball, Carmelo Anthony was quiet and in foul trouble, leaving the game with just 11 points on 4 of 13 shooting. As the game drew to a close, it meant JR Smith or Billups had taken most of the big shots for Denver, not him. After the game, ABC’s cameras caught him walking to the locker room with a frustrated air about him.

As Carmelo goes, so go the Nuggets.

He’s the catalyst to their success. In game one he vanished down the stretch. In game two, he outscored Kobe with 34 points. On Saturday, he disappeared again, scoring only three points in the second half.

His play has been a big part of why this series has been so uneven, with neither team really establishing anything. The Lakers lead 2-1, yes, but this was the only game where they outplayed the Nuggets. And even here, they had some breaks – Kobe was ice cold down the stretch from the charity stripe. Had he been anything less, this could have gone either way – it was that kind of night.

With game four coming up on Monday, nothing really seems certain. It’s been a flip-flop kind of series. Will we see the tight, tempered Nuggets of game two, led by a confident Melo? Or will we see Kobe driving the Lakers to a stranglehold 3-1 series lead? Who can tell?

Written by M.

May 24, 2009 at 4:47 am

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