DENVER – The public-address announcer at Pepsi Center conveniently reminds people just before tipoff, as a related video plays on the giant screens above center court, how the game is being played a mile above sea level and how that can cause physical problems. How considerate of the Nuggets to be concerned about the looming spike in the heart rate and blood pressure of players at the moment visiting teams are able to be reminded of the death march about to take place.
It’s snarky fun anytime, except that now it’s also an issue as the Nuggets and Lakers head to Game 4 tonight. L.A. center Andrew Bynum made it so when, while discussing his no-show of a first half Friday, cited altitude as one of the factors. Of course, he also said cited “Maybe just not ready to play,” so this might not be a medical case study just yet.
The Nuggets obviously don’t mind if visiting players are thinking about diminished oxygen capacity, especially if they’re thinking about it just before the Nuggets break out the running game that will put a burn in opponents’ legs. Coach George Karl himself, seemingly sans-snark, has referred to it as a factor in Denver’s success through the years.
Bynum’s proposed solution is to get to the arena earlier tonight than he did for Friday’s Game 3, as if his body will adjust better there compared to the team hotel that is a couple miles away but apparently at a much different altitude. Maybe it will help and Bynum will be able to score a point in the first half this time. Or maybe just thinking it will result in positive impact for the Lakers and their All-Star center in his version of the mind games.
Other news and notes heading into Game 4:
- The Nuggets liked what they got from putting the size of Danilo Gallinari on Kobe Bryant and plan to go back to the matchup again tonight despite the presence of two wings with much better reputations for defense, Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer. Karl liked it so much, in fact, that Afflalo, the starting shooting guard, spent the entire fourth quarter of Friday’s victory on the bench. “Arron’s had some good success on him, but it seems the last couple games that Gallo’s length is more prominent,” Karl said of the 6-foot-10 Gallinari. “Kobe, he shoots over everybody. But it seems like a little bit longer is better than shorter. I think everybody’s going to have to play him. Arron’s going to have to get him for 10 minutes or 15 minutes and Gallo might get him for 20 minutes and then Corey will get him for 10 or 15 minutes. I like that. I’ve always liked changing faces on great scorers, guys who get a lot of touches.”
- Mike Brown is trying to find a way to jump start his Lakers bench. While Jordan Hill did have six rebounds in 14 minutes, only two reserves scored Friday, and that was six points from Matt Barnes while making two of nine attempts and three from Steve Blake on one-of-four shooting. Barnes is at 20 percent the first three games, Blake at 26.7.
- Kosta Koufos wasn’t just replaced as the starting center Friday as the Nuggets went with Timofey Mozgov in hopes of getting more of a physical presence to face Bynum. Koufos went from the first unit to not getting off the bench at all as one of the other reserve bigs, JaVale McGee, delivered in 16 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. McGee’s chances of turning that into a starting job are not good based on past Karl comments of preferring the way McGee and Andre Miller work together, and Miller is not going to unseat Ty Lawson at point guard. Still, the Nuggets are clearly searching for a reliable center.
- The Lakers went 7:28 without a basket in the fourth quarter of Game 3, turning an eight-point deficit into a 14-point hole with 25 seconds left. They were three of 14 from the field that final period.