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.