DENVER - The Denver Nuggets don't just need work on their inbounds play. If they're to bounce back from a second last-minute loss to the Lakers they'll also have to play to the rim Monday night and not the crowd as they did in Game 3.
The Nuggets didn't spend their Sunday lamenting Trevor Ariza's deja vu steal in the final minute to help the Lakers snare a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final.
Instead, they talked about how they tried too hard to rile up their crowd, an ill-suited strategy that resulted in them missing 22 of 27 shots from outside the arc and shooting a playoff-low 39 per cent while losing at home for the first time in 75 days.
The Nuggets' three best three-point shooters were all off the mark: Carmelo Anthony was 1-for-7, Chauncey Billups 2-for-7, J.R. Smith 2-for-10.
Kenyon Martin said he couldn't believe the Nuggets fired up that many 3-pointers, ''but we were trying to put them away.''
''We'd go up seven, eight points and trying to get the building to erupt,'' Martin said. ''We've done that so much during the season and throughout the playoffs. So, we figured that's the way it was going to be. And it's not always going to be that way. You've got to grind it out sometimes, take the tough two or get to the line and score points that way.''
Billups agreed the Nuggets ''shot some bad three-point shots at bad points of the game, just taking chances, trying to hit the dagger,'' and vowed that would change for Game 4 Monday night.
In their half-dozen blowouts at the Pepsi Center in these playoffs, the Nuggets had turned their crowd into a major factor by using their transition game, pull-up threes, kick-outs and rim-rattling dunks to turn tight games into runaways and their arena into a jet engine.
Against Los Angeles, however, the three-pointers rimmed out all night, allowing the Lakers to stick around long enough for Kobe Bryant to win it for them in the fourth quarter with a little help from Ariza, who also stole the Nuggets' inbounds pass in the final minute to seal Game 1.
''I think we got caught up in the emotion of the moment of a great crowd, a great challenge,'' Nuggets coach George Karl said. ''I think we tried to hit too many home runs rather than just take a single here, a double here and win the game that way. We tried to hit too many bombs.
''We've got to challenge the Lakers to play defence on every possession. I think we took too many shots where they didn't have to play defence.''
The Nuggets were simply too excited about playing in front of their boisterous crowd for the first time since eliminating the Mavericks 10 days earlier, and that resulted into too many bricks.
''Being home and just knowing how great this crowd is when we make threes, when we make dunks, I think we may have put too much into that and wanted to feed off of that too much instead of playing a little smarter,'' Billups said.
The Nuggets had hoped playing at the Pepsi Center would give them some leeway to atone for mistakes, ''but we can't bank on that,'' Billups said. ''We've got to play the right way, like we've been playing the entire playoffs.''