Coming into the Lakers first-round series against the Nuggets, Los Angeles' knew to be aware of Denver's scoring capabilities and accelerated pace. But rebounding? That was supposed to be a facet of the game in L.A.'s favor.
Fast forward three games into the series and suddenly the Nuggets are the team that's doing the most damage on the glass.
"We’ve done a good enough job with our transition defense to help us win," said Lakers coach Mike Brown before practice Saturday. "Where I think we have to do a better job, where we’ve lacked the last two games, is they’re kicking our behind on the offensive glass."
Actually, Denver has kicked L.A.'s behind on the offensive glass all three games. Even in Game 1, when the Lakers held the overall rebounding lead 52-46, the Nuggets had 16 offensive rebounds to the Lakers' 11. In Game 2, the Nuggets outrebounded the Lakers 52-48 overall and 19-18 on the offensive end and in Denver's 99-84 Game 3 victory, they dominated the boards 54-44 and 19-13 on the offensive glass.
Of course, offensive rebounds lead to additional offensive possessions and giving additional offensive rebounds to the league's highest scoring team can be dangerous.
"I think it’s a team effort," said Pau Gasol, who is averaging 8.3 rebounds in the series, down from his 10.4 boards per game during the regular season. "You got to put bodies on people and if our bigs, for some reason, are not able to put bodies on their bigs, then the smalls have to come in there and put their noses in there and just start hitting (the glass) to keep them off the boards and make sure that they’re not moving around as much. So, I think it’s a collective effort as far as all getting in the lane, all putting bodies on people and going after the ball."
While Gasol's boards have diminished, the Nuggets have several players outpacing their regular season rebound production. JaVale McGee had 15 boards in Game 3 to up his series average to 6.3 rebounds (he averaged 5.8 for the Nuggets in the regular season since being traded from the Washington Wizards). Rookie Kenneth Faried, who also had 15 boards in Game 3, is averaging 11.0 rebounds, up from his 7.7 per game average during the regular season.
"They’ve been extremely active," said Kobe Bryant. "McGee and Faried, they’ll really running in and crashing the boards and using their athleticism, so, we got to do a better job of just turning and finding bodies and putting bodies on them. Us guards have to go in there and pick up the slack too."
Andrew Bynum, who has held up his end of the bargain on the glass by averaging 11.3 boards against the Nuggets which is right on par with his 11.8 rebounds per game average in the regular season, pointed out another reason why the Lakers have been exploited on the glass thus far.
"We’re missing a lot of shots," Bynum said.
Yes, but a missed shot by the Lakers can be looked at in two ways - an opportunity for a defensive rebound for Denver or an opportunity for an offensive rebound for L.A.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.