The writing seemed to be on the wall after the Los Angeles Lakers edged the Denver Nuggets, 92-88, in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series to take a 3-1 lead. That writing seemed to say that the Lakers were moving on.
Not so fast.
"I don't think it's an impossible challenge," Nuggets coach George Karl said after Game 4. "I think it's a great challenge for this young team."
That "young team" has played exceedingly well with its back to the wall as the Lakers have begun to wilt, with neither Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum doing anything to resemble Wilt. Kobe Bryant didn't keep it a secret that he felt his teammates didn't bring the necessary intensity to the Lakers' loss to the Nuggets in Game 6.
The Nuggets enter this winner-take-all tilt at the Staples Center flush with confidence, having won the past two games in the series. Not merely surviving, the Nuggets have been thriving as of late. Fleet-footed point guard Ty Lawson propelled Denver to a decisive 113-96 win in Game 6.
Can the return of Metta World Peace turn the tide for Los Angeles? Or will Karl's young Nuggets group keep surging into the second round?
FOLLOW HERE FOR LIVE UPDATES THROUGHOUT GAME 7:
During his postgame remarks, Nuggets coach George Karl told reporters, "I hate Steve Blake tonight, but I love him as a player." The former Terp had a huge game, hitting the shots usually taken by Kobe during long stretches. Blake finished with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
|@ LisaHorne : BREAKING....VANESSA BRYANT was at the game waiting for KOBE in tunnel????????????|
|@ okcthunder : We're set! Thunder hosts Lakers in Rd 2, Gm 1 Monday 8:30p CT TNT/Thunder Radio. Thunder Alley @ 5:30. Series sched @ http://t.co/wSLawGFm|
Pau with a tremendous game tonight, scoring 23 while grabbing 17 rebounds. He also had six dimes. Dominant performance after his terrible Game 6.
96-87 and that's all folks!
McGee jumps the line on his FT and it's waved off.
Bynum with a hard foul on McGee in waning moments. He hits first. Kobe is chatting with TNT broadcast team.
But too many Lakers rebounds, especially at the offensive end. It' 96-86. Tick.. tock..
Nuggets get too many shots off without hitting any of them during frenzied, prolonged possession. Bynum finally grabs board. Fouled by McGee.
Nuggets trail by 7.
Nuggets have no choice. Pau hits a pair. It's 94-86 with 31.3.
Kobe drains a three with Afflalo in his pocket. Tough shot
Afflalo nails a must-have three and ti's 89-84 as we hit 1 minute.
Asik nods knowingly. McGee misses first free throw... but gets second to drop. 89-81.
Kobe initiating Lakers offense. He's letting double come and then kicking it out. On this trip, ball comes out and swings around to Bynum. He's fouled in the act. He hits two. 89-80.
Lakers lead with 2:13 to play. They have the ball.
Another offensive rebound for Lakers salvages a possession that went off the rails due to Nuggets strong defense on Kobe.
|@ Lakers : 2:53 left in Game 7, Lakers lead 85-80. Huge games for the big guys: Gasol 21pts, 17rebs & 4blks. Bynum 10pts, 16rebs & 5blks. #GoLakers|
Lakers hold a 5-point lead.
Harrington shakes down Gasol with a nice move on the perimeter and steps back for an open look. Good! Nuggets close with 85-80.
Lakers reassert themselves midway through the fourth and it's on the Nuggets to counterpunch.
Pau is at the line and one to the good when Denver calls a stop to the action. Laker lead 83-78 with 3:40 remaining in someone's season.