Updated: May 9, 2012, 8:18 AM ET

1. McGee Alters Lakers' Postseason Plans

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- Anyone looking for a culprit in the Los Angeles Lakers' stunningly inept effort to close out the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 should not use Andrew Bynum's "easy" comment and its motivational impact on the Nuggets.

"Easy" is the wrong word. Try the synonym, "simple," instead, which made an appearance in a comment by George Karl over the weekend.

"Sometimes the simplest moves give you the biggest returns," Karl said.

That could be applied to the Nuggets' three-way trade with the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers just before the deadline in March, when Nene went to Washington, Nick Young was sent to the Clippers and JaVale McGee came to Denver. It was supposed to be a matter of the Nuggets getting out from Nene's contract, the Wizards clearing more immature players from their locker room and the Clippers getting another guard to replace the injured Chauncey Billups.

No one could have guessed that it would be the midseason deal that has made the biggest impact on the playoffs so far. Think about it. There isn't a player who switched teams this season who has played a larger role in winning two playoff games than McGee has in Game 3 and now in Denver's 102-99 victory Game 5 against the Lakers.

As Lakers coach Mike Brown put it, simply, "Both times McGee's had a big game, they've won."

Kobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Image

On Tuesday night, McGee had 21 points and 14 rebounds. He blocked two shots, but that stat was as reflective as velvet when it came to his defensive impact. He altered so many shots that were attempted over him that next game I'm going to tweak the stat I normally keep for Bynum and track SOJOA: Shots Over JaVale's Outstretched Arms.

"He's really improved his game," Kobe Bryant said. "He seems to be coming into his own in this playoff series and showing a lot of versatility and skill around the basket. Defensively as well, he's changing shots. So he's blossoming this series."

Said Brown: "I felt he came into tonight's game trying to make a statement."

So what was the message?

"Just trying to say I'm here and I'm just trying to help this organization win," McGee said.

He might as well have added: I'm also trying to get the word out that I'll be a free agent this summer, so anyone looking for a 7-foot center with arms that stretch out like the basket support, with an ambidextrous offensive repertoire that includes a hook shot and up-and-under scoops, call my agent.

Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri believed that Karl and the Nuggets' coaching staff could get more out of McGee and that escaping the negativity in Washington could allow McGee to prosper.

"Masai knows what he's doing," Ty Lawson said. "He knew that if he put [McGee] around players that want to win -- I'm not saying the Wizards don't want to, but -- players that are proven winners and want to win, he's going to change his mindset. He left the salute in Washington, and all that. He's come here. Just playing hard and he's getting better and better. He's maturing and getting more focused."

We heard a lot of similar talk after McGee had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his breakout Game 3, then he followed it with a pedestrian eight and four in Game 4.

He still hasn't arrived, but he has moved past the fluke category now that he has outplayed Bynum in two out of three games.

Ah, Bynum. Not a good idea to say "Closeout games are actually kind of easy" on the eve of playing one.

Karl pounced on it, inserting it at the end of the team video. (Can we ban the phrase "bulletin-board material?" When was the last time you saw an actual bulletin board in an NBA locker room?)

Bynum had the least impressive double-double you could imagine. His 16 points and 11 rebounds weren't enough for a player as critical to the Lakers' fortunes. We'd harp on Dwight Howard for anything less than 20 points, and since Bynum has been mentioned in connection with him so much this season, we need to harp on Bynum the same way.

It shouldn't matter that Denver's entire defense is focused on him, and every move he makes is accompanied by at least two defenders. As Brown said, Bynum can get to the block sooner, run downcourt faster, or post deeper if he wants to avoid or beat the double- and triple-teams.

Also, chill with the "easy" talk.

"If a guy wants to say that, in my opinion, he's got to back it up," Brown said.

Even Bryant is no longer taking anything for granted. When the Houston Rockets pounded the Lakers in a potential closing Game 6 in 2009, Bryant talked of wanting to "get out of this series and try to prepare for the next one."

He sounded a little less presumptive Tuesday night when discussing the Lakers' missed chance to get additional rest for a second-round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, saying, "I don't care if you give us a year to rest. If we're fortunate enough to move on and play Oklahoma City, that year is not going to make us faster."

Game 6 in Denver Thursday night will, at the very least, make the Lakers less rested for a team that finished off a sweep of Dallas over the weekend. It will make them more road-weary, as they would have to go straight to Oklahoma City from Denver for the next round. Or they could lose and have to come back to L.A. for Game 7 on Saturday.

Bryant did his best to end Tuesday, with a 14-point fourth quarter that included four 3-pointers. But he missed his final two attempts, the last one getting deep inside the cylinder before rimming out.

"I used to have a coach who used to say the basketball gods would not allow us to win this game tonight because we didn't deserve it," Bryant said.

I'm guessing that wasn't Del Harris. Probably Tex Winter, the long-time Phil Jackson assistant. After all, who would have thought when we talked about impact centers in this series, it would be JaVale McGee, not Andrew Bynum?


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