Kobe Bryant nearly willed the Lakers back to a Game 5 victory, but it was too little to late. Photo by Jeff Lewis
The Lakers were a no show until the end in series close out game loss to the Nuggets. Lakers still lead series 3-2.
This Lakers team has always been labeled as a team without a killer instinct, even when they were winning back-to-back championships. Their detractors can ring that bell once again, as the Lakers had a chance to finish off the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 at home, but they did not show up to play as they lost the game 102-99.
The Nuggets may have been inspired by the immature comments of Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who is looking like the goat right about now. Before the match up Bynum said that closeout games were easy because the opponent would simply fold.
Well the Nuggets had no plans of folding, and they pretty much over powered the Lakers for the bulk of the game. The Nuggets do not have strong low post players, but they outscored the Lakers 58-44 in the paint.
Outside of the final few minutes of the game, when the Lakers came back from being down by 15 points to cut the lead to two, the Lakers showed absolutely no passion or desire to end this series.
Nuggets point guard Andre Miller (Verbum Dei High School) torched the Lakers for 24 points and he was able to get to the basket with ease, even though he is not known for his speed.
Nuggets center JaVale McGee scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and at one point midway through the fourth period he was outscoring Bynum and Pau Gasol combined, who finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds between the two of them.
Bynum thought this game was going to be easy, and for most of the series the Nuggets were avoiding the paint after he blocked 10 shots in Game 1. The Nuggets had struggled in the half court offense against the Lakers defense, and they have relied on fast breaks to generate offense.
But in Game 5, the Nuggets did not have any fear driving to the basket, and they were flying above the rim for a number of dunks and alley-oops as it was Bynum who folded.
The Lakers bigs simply did not show up to play, and the play that was most indicative of that was late in the fourth period, when the Lakers were on their feverous comeback. Gasol seemed to have a free run at the basket for a dunk, and McGee filled the lane and stuffed his shot.
In a game that came down to sheer desire, the Nuggets had it, while the Lakers played like it was a given that they were heading to the second round of the playoffs. The Lakers were out hustled and they were out muscled by a smaller team.
The Lakers did not show much of a low post presence while they were trying to win the game from the perimeter, even though their strength is on the inside. Long jump shots meant long rebounds, which sparked fast breaks for the younger and more athletic Nuggets.
If Bynum wanted the Nuggets to fold, then he should have stepped up and made them quit. He talked the talk, but he did not bother to walk the walk.
Kobe Bryant, who finished with 43 points, seemed like the only player on the Lakers who was interested in not taking a trip back to Denver, as he hit four 3-point baskets in the final few minutes of the game. He tried to will his team from 15 points down, but his efforts were wasted by a team that was simply going through the motions.
The Lakers were starting to look like real contenders, and they could have gone into Oklahoma City on a high note. But instead they will have a dogfight in Denver for Game 6, with the Nuggets looking to embarrass a team that may be more hype than anything else.
The Lakers put themselves in a tough spot. A Game 5 win would have sent them straight to Oklahoma City. But now they have to make a stop in Denver. A win there will send them right to Oklahoma City instead of a return trip home. So they could be looking at a three game road trip. But that is if they win Game 6. A loss will mean that the Lakers could be closed out at home in Game 7.
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