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The L.A. Lakers prevailed in an insane Game 7, beating the Denver Nuggets 96-87 to move on to the second round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Pau Gasol had a huge game, leading the Lakers with 23 points and 17 rebounds. Andrew Bynum also played well after two straight underwhelming performances; the center had 16 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks.
The Nuggets trailed by as many as 13 in the third quarter, but stormed back and held a 4-point lead early in the fourth. In the final period, Kobe Bryant switched onto Ty Lawson and shut him down. For the previous three quarters, Metta World Peace had the strongest defensive performance, completely shutting down Danilo Gallinari, who finished with three points on 1-9 shooting.
Lawson finished with 24 points on 11-19 shooting. Al Harrington matched him in the scoring ledger with 24, attacking frequently throughout. But Steve Blake was the game's best reserve, dropping 19 on 7-11 shooting including five three-pointers.
The fourth quarter was incessantly frantic, uncomfortable for both sides and a joy to watch. As Rasheed Wallace would say, "Both teams played hard."
The Lakers will now face the Oklahoma City Thunder, who swept the Dallas Mavericks and haven't played in a week. Game 1 is on Monday in OKC. Game 2 will be scheduled for Wednesday, and the teams will play a back-to-back in L.A. on Friday and Saturday.
During ESPN's broadcast of the Clippers vs. Grizzlies Game 6 on Friday, Magic Johnson predicted Lakers head coach Mike Brown would be fired if his team lost Game 7 of their series against the Nuggets. Today, that prediction was refuted by a "source with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking." Via Dave McMenamin.
Source with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking tells ESPNLA.com that Brown's job is not on the line based on Game 7 result— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 12, 2012
Here is part of what Johnson originally said about Brown's job security. Via the Los Angeles Times.
"Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game," Johnson said. "There would be so much pressure on Jim Buss and the Laker organization to get rid of him."
Saturday's Game 7 is scheduled to tip off at 10:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TNT.
Metta World Peace will return from his seven-game suspension on Saturday to help the L.A. Lakers in their quest to survive the first round against the Denver Nuggets. Coach Mike Brown has said that MWP will start in place of Matt Barnes, and it's likely that Devin Ebanks will be pushed deeper into the rotation.
Barnes has been wildly ineffective on offense throughout the series, averaging just 5 points and 4 rebounds per game in 22 minutes. He's shot 13-48 (27 percent) from the floor and 3-24 (12.5 percent) from long-range, just awful numbers at any sample size. Ebanks has been a bit better offensively (similar scoring and better shooting in five fewer minutes per game), but clearly isn't someone the Lakers rely on to help the offense consistently.
But Barnes has done a great job defensively. Danilo Gallinari is shooting just 33-85 (39 percent) from the floor and 3-20 (15 percent) on three-pointers; Gallo's offense has been saved by some decent foul-drawing. According to NBA.com, Gallinari is shooting just 32 percent in this series when Barnes is on the court, and 43 percent when Barnes sits. Most notably, Gallo is 0-8 on threes with Barnes in the game.
In this sense, MWP's return is a double-edged sword: Barnes has been effective in controlling Gallinari, a vital piece of Denver's offense. Now Barnes will be on Gallinari far less. But MWP's primary offering is defense -- now, in theory, both players guarding Gallo will be strong defenders. But if MWP is bringing defense on par with that of Barnes, where's the upgrade? How is MWP actually going to help the Lakers get over the hump? (This has somehow become a triple-edged sword.)
MWP defended Gallo well over 70 minutes in the regular season, holding him to 35 percent shooting. But Denver has this series tied with Gallinari largely being bottled up. In short: if the primary benefit of getting MWP back for Game 7 is to help slow down the Nuggets' offense, and the player MWP will be most responsible for has already been handcuffed by the man MWP is replacing in the starting five, is there even a true benefit to MWP's return?
If you think MWP is going to help the Lakers' offense, keep in mind that he was a substantially worse three-point shooter than Barnes over the course of the season, and for the last two seasons has held a scoring efficiency that would Smush Parker look like Steve Nash.
Ty Lawson scored 32 points on 13-of-18 shooting to lead the Nuggets. Kenneth Faried finished with a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Corey Brewer chipped in 18 points off the bench. Denver was especially effective from 3-point range, making 10-of-20 attempts.
The Lakers will now head back to Los Angeles hoping the third elimination game is the charm. Kobe Bryant, battling the stomach flu, scored 31 points. Pau Gasol had a miserable Game 6, making just 1-of-10 field goal attempts and finishing with three points. Andrew Bynum finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds, his third double-double of the series.
Game 7 is scheduled for Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on TNT
This was a scary moment for Denver Nuggets fans. Talented rookie Kenneth Faried surged in on a fast break on the left side of the court, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant went up to try to contest his shot, or at least commit a playoff foul and make Faried hit two free throws. Because Faried is Faried, he elevated much higher in the air than Bryant. That caused this to happen.
Now, Bryant was technically making a play for the ball, but by swinging his arm out, he nailed Faried in the head, which explained the flagrant foul call. Faried then fell pretty hard on the ground, and when he looked up, he looked like this.
That's scary. It should be noted that Faried is still in the game, so maybe he's OK. But at first glance, that does not look good.
Those of you who thought Kobe Bryant was going to take a seat for Game 6 because of his nasty gastroenteritis were a) naive and b) wrong. Scott Howard Cooper broke the news on twitter:
Mike Brown says Kobe Bryant will play.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) May 11, 2012
Yeah. Kobe Bryant probably relishes the opportunity to have a flu game of his own, and although "gastroenteritis game" is a little bit more unwieldy, the storyline is the same. Bryant threw up on the bus according to TNT, and he isn't in prime physical form. If Kobe manages to play effectively - or, as Bryant probably has dreamed about many times while watching Michael Jordan highlight reels, be the hero - we'll be hearing about it in Gatorade commercials for some time.
That said, he'll probably be tired and look somewhat uncomfortable while dealing with a really gross illness.
The Nuggets survived elimination in Game 5 and will look to do it again as the series moves back to Denver for Game 6.
Kobe Bryant is not the mythical creature that the highlight reels make him out to be, and the Lakers are not above the immutable laws of basketball.
JaVale McGee and Andrew Bynum are alike in many ways; they're long, athletic, talented -- and immature. Tuesday night McGee outplayed Bynum to help the Nuggets stave off elimination in Game 5 of their series with the Lakers.
The Denver Nuggets played strong against the Los Angeles Lakers and pulled out a 102-99 victory on Tuesday night. With the win, the Nuggets are only at a 3-2 series disadvantage and will head home to the Pepsi Center for Thursday night's Game 6.
Kobe Bryant was almost unstoppable during the final minutes of the game, hitting key three after key three, but he never could quite hit that shot to tie the game. Still, the Nuggets successfully fended off the Lakers in a game that saw Bryant score 43 points.
The Nuggets wouldn't have been able to claim the win had it not been for JaVale McGee, who came up with 21 points and 14 rebounds. More than that, McGee channeled Wilt Chamberlain among his scoring plays and came up with two blocks. Also playing a key role off the bench was Andre Miller, who scored 24 points and dished the ball out for eight assists.
Will the Nuggets be able to even this series on Thursday night?
The Los Angeles Lakers struggled in all facets of their game in Game 3 of their series against the Denver Nuggets, but were improved all around in Game 4. Denver's offense completely dried up in the second half as they managed just 37 points. That let the Lakers come back from a bad first half, and they're heading to LA with a 3-1 series lead after winning 92-88.
Steve Blake was the unlikely hero of the night, hitting a late three-pointer to seal the win. With the Lakers up three points following a slightly controversial offensive goaltending call on Denver's Andre Miller, Blake drained a three from the corner, assisted by Kobe Bryant, to give Los Angeles a six-point lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Bryant led all scorers with 22 points, but was just 10-25 from the floor and inexplicably failed to get to the free throw line during the game. Andrew Bynum was much improved from Game 3 with an 8-12 shooting performance, while Jordan Hill contributed another double-double off the bench.
The Nuggets got a great performance out of Danilo Gallinari, but the rest of their offensive weapons struggled. Ty Lawson scored 11 points, Al Harrington had nine and Arron Afflalo had just six points.
For more on the Lakers, head over to Silver Screen and Roll and SB Nation Los Angeles. For more on the Nuggets, check out Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver. For complete coverage of the 2012 NBA playoffs, stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated NBA hub.
The Denver Nuggets picked up a win in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers and look for momentum to bring them another home victory to even up the series at 2-2 on Sunday evening.
JaVale McGee has outplayed Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in a playoff game. To the bomb shelters, everyone. McGee was absolutely ridiculous on Friday night, contributing 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes of play for the Denver Nuggets. In the time he was on the floor, his team scored 30 more points than the Los Angeles Lakers. There were other Nuggets who had very good games, but it's safe to say that he was the difference in Denver's 99-84 victory in Game 3.
Kenneth Faried also had a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds while Ty Lawson led all scorers with 25 points. Even though the Lakers have a significant size advantage over Denver, the Nuggets outrebounded their opponents 54-44.
Kobe Bryant had a solid first half for the Lakers, but struggled shooting the ball in the second half and finished with 22 points on 7-23 shooting. Andrew Bynum finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, an impressive line considering that he didn't score in the first half, but the Lakers dug themselves into such a deep hole early that there was no way out of it. Denver outscored the Lakers 30-14 in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead after they went ahead 14-12 in the first.
The Lakers now lead the series 2-1, with the home team winning all of the series' first three games.
Al Harrington has suffered a broken nose after being elbowed in the face (apparently inadvertently) by Andrew Bynum during the fourth quarter of the Denver Nuggets' Game 3 against the L.A. Lakers on Friday, reports ESPN's sideline man Ric Bucher. Harrington bled on the court after the shot to the dome.
Bucher also reported that Harrington will likely need to wear a mask when he returns to action later in the series.
Harrington had a strong bounceback season for the Nuggets, averaging 14 points per game. George Karl has had the luxury of using bizarre, but effective frontlines this season, mixing and matching Harrington, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov.
Harrington scored seven points before being knocked out of Game 3.
Denver hasn't played badly, but Los Angeles' stars have come to play and put the Nuggets in a 2-0 hole. Can Denver stay in the series in Game 3?
The Lakers again led wire-to-wire to beat Denver and take a 2-0 series lead, but if Denver had made some of its open three-pointers, it easily could have stolen this game. The Denver backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson have yet to make a three-pointer in the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers have taken a 2-0 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in this opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs following Tuesday's 104-100 victory. Los Angeles held off a late Denver rally and, as the series shifts to Denver, are now halfway to advancing to the second round.
Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum once again led the way for the Lakers. Bryant sank shot after shot -- 15-of-29 from the field, 6-of-7 from the line -- for a game-high 38 points. Bynum followed up his triple-double from Game 1 with 27 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Pau Gasol added a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Nuggets came close to a comeback late in the final quarter, but they couldn't quite make it over that hump. They have yet to lead in either game this series. Ty Lawson led the way for the Nuggets with 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting and dished out the ball for seven assists. Rookie Kenneth Faried finished the game with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The two teams will travel to Denver for a Friday game at the Pepsi Center. The teams split the two-game series there during the regular season
Andrew Bynum had the first points-blocks-rebounds triple-double in the playoffs since 1990, and the Lakers cruised to an easy 103-88 victory over the Nuggets to kick off their postseason. Oh, and Kobe Bryant had 31 points, too.
The trouble started early for the Nuggets, who only scored 14 points in the first quarter. Denver faced a dilemma: try scoring from the outside, which isn't their strong suit, or try to finish against Bynum in the paint. Neither worked. The Nuggets' starters missed every three-pointer they attempted and Bynum recorded 10 swats. Ty Lawson looked lost, finishing 3-of-11 with seven points and, although Danilo Gallinari had some nice moves, it wasn't enough. JaVale McGee continued to be ridiculous with an 0-for-6 performance.
The surprise star early for Los Angeles was Devin Ebanks, who had 12 first-half points in the starting spot vacated by Metta World Peace. Ebanks wouldn't score in the second half, but the Lakers' superstars came through. The lead was between 10 and 20 for most of the second half, and the Lakers were never really threatened.
The Very Best Videos and GIFS from the Game
Insta-Reax from our team bloggers
From our Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll
I expect Bynum to start handing the ball to the Nuggets big men under the basket and saying "go ahead"
— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersBlog_SSR) April 29, 2012
For updates and analysis of these two teams, stick with this storystream. Also make sure to check out Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll, SB Nation Los Angeles, Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs and SB Nation Denver.
The Denver Nuggets are an NBA team, a very good one in fact. They are just a small NBA team, and that proved to be a problem against Andrew Bynum and the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum blocked 10 shots, tying an NBA Playoffs record set by Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton. He added a triple-double -- the first points/rebounds/blocks triple-double in the playoffs since 1990 -- for good measure in the Lakers' blowout win.
Here's video of the first nine of Bynum's 10 blocks in the game.
The tenth block came against Timofey Mozgov, one of three Nuggets centers who was powerless to stop Bynum from dominating the paint. Size is such a huge factor in the playoffs, and the Lakers have a huge size advantage over the Nuggets that they will continue to exploit until the Nuggets find some magic growing beans. Unless that happens, Denver is in a lot of trouble in this series.
The L.A. Lakers will begin their quest to add another trophy to the case on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. The Lakers won the Pacific Division and landed the No. 3 seed in the West; the Nuggets won on Thursday to clinch a date with L.A.
It should be an interesting matchup given L.A.'s penchant for focusing vast swaths of its offense on five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant and Denver's preference for as much scoring balance as possible. The center matchup between Andrew Bynum and JaVale McGee might also force armchair coaches to grind their teeth to the gums.
Here's the series schedule as released by the NBA. All times are Eastern.
Game 1 - Sun., April 29 at L.A., 3:30 p.m., ABC
Game 2 - Tue., May 1 at L.A., 10:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Fri., May 4 at Denver, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 - Sun., May 6 at Denver, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 5 - Tue., May 8 at L.A.
Game 6 - Thu., May 10 at Denver
Game 7 - Sat., May 12 at L.A., TNT
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