Gameday: Nuggets 102, Lakers 99

GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Denver Nuggets 26 23 27 26 102
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 23 20 22 34 99

Nuggets avoid elimination, hold off Lakers 102-99


Posted May 08 2012 10:51PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Andre Miller scored 24 points, including two free throws with 12.8 seconds left, and the Denver Nuggets survived Kobe Bryant's late scoring barrage in a 43-point performance, avoiding playoff elimination with a 102-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

JaVale McGee had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Nuggets, who trimmed the Lakers' series lead to 3-2, but only after a hair-raising finish.

Denver had a 15-point lead midway through the fourth quarter against the lifeless Lakers, but Bryant engineered a stunning comeback before his final three shots missed. Bryant scored 12 points in the final 4:47, hitting four 3-pointers that trimmed the Nuggets' lead to 98-96 with 59 seconds left.

Bryant then missed a potential tying 5-footer and a 3-pointer, but Denver missed two free throws before Ramon Sessions hit a 3-pointer with 12.8 seconds left, trimming the Nuggets' lead to one point.

Los Angeles had two more chances to tie after the veteran Miller's free throws, but Bryant and Sessions missed 3-pointers near the buzzer.

Game 6 is Thursday night in Denver.

Arron Afflalo scored 19 points and Danilo Gallinari added 14 for the Nuggets, while rookie Kenneth Faried had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Andrew Bynum had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost a closeout playoff game at home for the first time since May 4, 2006, against Phoenix. Until Bryant's big finish, Los Angeles mustered little passion for the occasion, playing the second half under steady boos from their fans.

Bynum indirectly tweaked the Nuggets on Monday when he proclaimed elimination games are "actually kind of easy" because an opponent will sometimes give up quickly when facing adversity. Denver coach George Karl planned to mention the quote to his team, and the Nuggets played like a team that isn't going anywhere.

The Nuggets still must win two games to advance to the second round for just the second time in nine years, but they have already accomplished something rare by winning Game 5. Los Angeles had closed out a playoff series on the first try in 11 of its previous 12 opportunities, and the Lakers won 12 of their last 13 closeout games under departed coach Phil Jackson.

The Lakers never trailed in the first two games of the series, but they never led in Game 5 after their very first basket made it 2-0.

The Lakers thought they had taken control of the series with a final-minute rally to win a tight Game 4, but the Nuggets have outplayed the third-seeded Lakers for long stretches of the series. Denver was sharper and more determined from the opening tip in Game 5, while the Lakers played a disorganized, disinterested 3 1/2 quarters until the late rally.

In the best game of his first career playoff series, McGee threw down a mind-boggling array of dunks and converted alley-oop passes while dominating the Lakers' superstar duo of 7-footers. McGee dunked on a 60-foot alley-oop pass from Miller early in the fourth quarter, and he stared down the Lakers' fans after dunking while getting fouled with 6:35 to play, putting the Nuggets ahead by 15.

Pau Gasol had just nine points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, while Matt Barnes scored 11 points.

The Lakers failed to complete their first playoff series victory under coach Mike Brown exactly one year after Dallas swept the Lakers in the second round of last year's postseason, ending 11-time NBA champion coach Jackson's career - for now, anyway.

Los Angeles' loss means starting forward Metta World Peace will finish his seven-game suspension during the first round. World Peace was banned for viciously elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the Lakers' penultimate regular-season game.

The Lakers got off to a 3-for-12 start and fell behind after leading the first two home games of the series from start to finish. Neither team was particularly sharp in the first half, with the Lakers trailing 49-43 at the break after making just 15 of 45 shots despite 18 points from Bryant.

Denver enforced its preferred speedy tempo on the walk-it-up Lakers for long stretches, repeatedly beating the Lakers back with fast breaks and sharp passes. Each time the Lakers managed to get close, the Nuggets responded with a rally, including a 10-2 surge to close the third quarter.

Notes: Before the game, Brown chuckled mirthlessly at the conspiracy theory suggesting the Lakers might tank Game 5 to burn off World Peace's suspension before facing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. ... Miller was hit with a technical foul in the second quarter after a hard foul on Bynum, who got a T of his own in the third quarter for shoving Faried after a basket. ... Afflalo finally awoke offensively after averaging just 9 points in the first four games of the series. ... Fans near courtside included Larry David, British boxer Amir Khan and comedian Harland Williams.

Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets Tuesday, May 8th at the Pepsi Center at 7:30PM. Catch all the action on Fox Sports West, TNT, or 710ESPN.

View More Photos

Points Bryant 43, 14-32
Rebounds Bynum 11, 7 OFF 4 DEF
Assists Sessions 6
Steals Bryant 2
Blocks Gasol 3


Mike Brown:

Lakers coach Mike Brown on tonight’s loss:
“Denver came and played a very good game from start to finish—you’ve got to give them credit. I thought they came out, they hit first and they continued to hit throughout the course of game. I thought they were more physical than us, offensively we didn’t have any flow, we were stagnant often and we didn’t get the ball reversals that we normally like to get. And then we didn’t space the floor well when the ball went to the post and they were able to capitalize on our missed shots when we did get it out to open guys. And then our paint protection on the defense end of the floor is not good right now.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown on Bynum and Gasol’s struggle to defend McGee:
“McGee is long, he’s athletic, he’s very active. He came into tonight’s game trying to make a statement, both he and Faried have been two guys that have been trying to do that all series. He had a big game a couple of games ago, a big game tonight, and both times McGee’s had a big game, they’ve won. Really it’s just him being long, him being athletic, him being hungry and wanting to go get the ball, and us not paying as much attention to him as we should.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown on continuing the series:
“I feel these guys are champions, I feel these guys are winners, and I feel that we had an opportunity tonight, we let it get away from us. The one thing our guys have to understand though is we’re still up 3-2, we’re still in control of the series and we’ve just got to go on the road and get a win. Nobody said this was going to be easy. I don’t go into any series thinking I’m going to sweep anybody. You hope you do. Even if you don’t sweep them, you hope you win 4-1, and then so on and so forth. So, we’re still sitting in a good spot, but we obviously just made it tougher on ourselves. We’ve just got to go take care of business on the road.”

Andrew Bynum:

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum on JaVale McGee’s play tonight:
“He attacked off the glass. That is what was causing me problems personally. Other than that, he gets balls in transition. We got to get back.

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum on his performance tonight:
“Me personally, they were just --- off the guy trying to get me the ball. I’m going watch the clip and see how to be more effective. Other than that, I just have to get down the court earlier, get their first.

Lakers Andrew Bynum on getting off to a poor start:
“We didn’t get out to a good start and we lost so I guess the saying holds true. Tonight, I got off to a poor start and it’s been tough getting the ball. We’re going to have to make an adjustment and watch the tape.”

Lakers Andrew Bynum on making a run at the end of the 4th quarter:
“We played hard for the last 6 minutes of the game and we got back into it but it was too little to late.”

Pau Gasol:

Lakers Pau Gasol on what Denver is doing defensively to limit Bynum’s touches:
“They’ve been trying to make a conscious effort of not allowing easy passes into the post, so they are making an effort on taking the ball away from Andrew’s hands and we have to make sure we move the ball better so we can get the ball into the post.”

Lakers Pau Gasol on the team’s overall performance tonight:
“I think we were all frustrated tonight and didn’t play the game we wanted to play tonight. We didn’t bring the energy that was required to put this team away --- and they did. They played more desperate than we did and with more energy, and that gave them the chance to take the game.”

Lakers Pau Gasol on his thoughts of close-out games:
“These kinds of games are a double-edged sword because you think you have the chance to put the team away but you don’t make a conscious effort on attacking and controlling the game, and taking it from them. They’re just not going to lay down for you so hopefully we learned a lesson. We made it tougher for ourselves but now we have to go up to Denver and try to win Game 6.”

Steve Blake:

Lakers Steve Blake on whether momentum is important going into the next game:
“Momentum is big in this game. But at the same time, we’ve all been there on the winning side and the losing side so we’re prepared. We’re ready to get in there and play as good as we can and try to close this out.”

Lakers Steve Blake on Denver’s fight this series:
“No one said it was going to be easy. They are a good team, no question about it. So we’re going to have to really focus and execute when we there and try to get it in a tough environment.”

Kobe Bryant:

Lakers Kobe Bryant on whether the Nuggets were more motivated to come out and win after
“Did it pump them up? Probably. Would they have come out and played with that kind of energy anyway? Probably. We didn’t execute . They obviously played harder than we did. So it’s a lesson to learn.”

Lakers Kobe Bryant JaVale McGee:
“He’s really improved his game. He’s 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 in this series.”

Lakers Kobe Bryant on trying to overcome a deficit:
“I’ve been in this position before. I know a lot guys on the team haven’t been in this position before so it’s important to remind them, yeah, this sucks – but it’s not the end of the world. You got to go out there in a tough environment and gain some experience and play to your strengths.”

Lakers Kobe Bryant on whether the Lakers picked up their energy in the 4th quarter:
“I wouldn’t say our energy kicked in in the 4th quarter. I almost bailed us out, that’s what happened. It wasn’t the energy. I just started making shots left and right that got us back in the ball game. That’s not something we can use to rely on to get us to the championship. We all have to step up and we all have to contribute and we all have to play with that kind of energy and sense of urgency.

George Karl:

Nuggets coach George Karl on Andre Miller:
“I thought that Andre [Miller] was sensational in the second half. The way he orchestrated layups that we got and the lobs, he made some great plays, great athletic plays.”

Nuggets coach George Karl on how they could win:
“My hope, I don’t know if this is true or not, is that fatigue will come our way. The running of the game, the tempo of the game, and the pace the way we play. They’re getting tired of hearing it and you’re probably getting tired of hearing it but our only chance to beat them is run them and play with tremendous energy and intensity. Maybe somewhere along the way we’ll make some threes.”

Nuggets coach George Karl on the difficulty of winning the fourth game:
“I think it’s hard to win. I’ve been blessed to win a few series and it’s hard to win the next game. It’s the hardest thing in the world to win the fourth game. I don’t care who you’re playing, it’s hard to win that fourth game.”

Nuggets coach George Karl on liking the team:
“I think liking is in energy. For us to be successful we run and we have to play with a good energy. You know we have not been a great defensive team all year but we have opportunities to be good defensively. We controlled the game because of our defense and then it fell apart in the last seven or eight minutes. But, they’re coachable, they play with a past, and they play together. They play the right way generally, most of the time. We play with energy and intensity which I think is the biggest key of how we have got to play. That is why Kenneth [Faried] is so important to us because he’s our leader of intensity and energy.”

Ty Lawson:

Nuggets’ Ty Lawson on the team’s offensive execution:
“This game and last game I think our offensive execution was better. The last game we had a lot of fast-break points but tonight we did a good job of executing in the half-court.”

Nuggets’ Ty Lawson on the team’s rebounding improvements:
“We rebounded. We made it tough for all of them to get second chance points. That’s the main thing that helped us out tonight. We also hit more shots tonight than we did in past games in the series.”

Nuggets’ Ty Lawson on going back to Denver:
“I’m elated. I’m ready to go. We’ve got a home crowd behind us and we know we play well at home.”

JaVale McGee:

Nuggets’ JaVale McGee on his motivation:
“Usually I’m nowhere near the playoffs. My last game of the year is usually at the end of the regular season in April. I didn’t want my last game to be tonight.”

Nuggets’ JaVale McGee on how big this game was for him:
“It means a lot but we’re still down in the series and still have games to win. It’s an honor to be here.”

Nuggets’ JaVale McGee on the team’s game plan:
“Our game plan was for everybody to rebound. That’s what we did. The guards rebounded, the bigs rebounded, and it worked for us.”

Andre Miller:

Nuggets’ Andre Miller on the Lakers fourth quarter run:
“I was just glad we didn’t go to overtime. There was too much energy in the building. A veteran team like that will fight their way back and they know how to finish games. We found a way to contain them and we rebounded the ball.”

Nuggets’ Andre Miller on his offensive mentality:
“I wanted to keep their bigs moving and take advantage of some post-ups against Steve (Blake) and Ramon (Sessions). We need someone out there to draw a double team and make the game a little easier for everyone else. We had some pin downs for Arron (Afflalo) and once they helped on Arron, we had lobs to JaVale (McGee).

Arron Afflalo:

Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo on the possibility of the Lakers wearing down in game 6:
“I don’t think they’re going to wear out, but we’re just trying to keep the pressure on, and keep competing. They will come in there trying to win. This isn’t just a ‘get the series back to LA’ game for them. That game is going to be a hard fought game. They’ve beaten us on our home floor before so we understand that.”

Nuggets’ Arron Afflalo on the Lakers fourth quarter run:
“You had to expect a run. Blake, Sessions, and Kobe were hitting some tough shots from beyond the arc. Sometimes there’s not a lot you can do about that. The idea is to maintain our focus and maintain the principles that allowed us to get a lead. They started to make shots off of the backboard and three’s in our face, and that’s just part of the game. We have to fight to the end and get to the next one.”

Nuggets - Lakers Preview


Kobe Bryant isn't eager to correct a long-standing misconception about his career.

People always assume he's determined to take the Los Angeles Lakers' biggest late-game shots. He's actually just as comfortable setting up his teammates to be heroes by drawing a double-team.

He did it to the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series, and he'd be happy to do it again when the Lakers go for the clinching victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Although he's pretty sure it's an open secret in NBA coaching circles, Bryant acknowledges he's been a decoy and a facilitator for years when Derek Fisher and Robert Horry were his sharpshooting teammates on the perimeter.

Fisher has been replaced by Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake this season, but the Lakers' late-game poise and strategy haven't changed, as evidenced late in the toughest game of their first-round series. In the final minute of Game 4, Pau Gasol set up Sessions' tiebreaking 3-pointer before Bryant fed Blake for the back-breaking 3-pointer and a 3-1 series lead.

''It's great to see them make those big shots,'' Bryant said after the Lakers' practice at their training complex Monday. ''(Other teams) will continue to sit in there and force me to kick the ball out to shooters, as evidenced by Derek knocking big shot after big shot. No matter how many big shots he made, teams still left him.''

The Nuggets were paying attention, and the final minute of Game 4 drew attention to what's considered a problem for Denver's balanced roster: There's no obvious leader to take a key late-game shot. But that's not what the Nuggets need, according to Bryant.

''It's not really about having one guy,'' Bryant said. ''It's about having somebody that's going to command double-teams and free everybody up. That's really what it's about.'' The Lakers have done it impressively in the last few weeks, particularly while Bryant rested his bruised shin for eight late-season games. They can book a second-round date with Oklahoma City by eliminating Denver for the third time in five postseasons.

''Hopefully we finish them off,'' center Andrew Bynum said. ''I don't want to go back to Denver. ... Closeout games are actually kind of easy. Teams will fold if you come out and play hard.''

Bryant scored 69 points in the series' two games at Staples Center, but just 44 in two games in Denver. Instead, he doubled his assists total and encouraged his teammates to step up. ''It's as exciting to see Kobe make a pass at the right time and trust his guys,'' coach Mike Brown said. ''In the past a lot, it's been Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, but we've gone to Pau a lot, to Sessions. The guys have seen me trust second-unit guys down the stretch.''

While Denver doesn't have the Lakers' star power, Los Angeles doesn't have the Nuggets' depth. The Lakers are trying to develop their supporting cast during a transitional season from Phil Jackson's strategies to Brown's innovations.

Although the bit players hit several big shots in Game 4, the Lakers' bench has been largely ineffective in recent weeks outside of Jordan Hill, who has developed abruptly into a dynamic rebounder and energy player. Most notably, Matt Barnes is a dismal 1 for 14 on 3-pointers against Denver, failing to step into an increased role during Metta World Peace's suspension.

But the Nuggets' superior bench hasn't translated into success, largely because Denver still can't impose its speedy tempo on the bulky, disciplined Lakers. JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried have gathered a wealth of knowledge during the first playoff series of their careers, but they're already facing elimination for the first time.

''It's not over, and it's a series that we can win Game 5,'' Denver coach George Karl said. ''We should have won (Game 4) in a lot of ways. We gave a lot of good effort and had a lot of good results, but we got beat by a good team.''

Veteran Al Harrington is happy his young teammates still believe they have a chance to shock the Lakers, who never trailed at home at any point in the first two games of the series.

''They're so naive, they definitely do,'' Harrington said jokingly. ''I definitely believe we have a chance. If we can get Game 5, I definitely don't think the Lakers want to come back here to play a Game 6. If we can get Game 5, I think 6 can maybe take care of itself, and hopefully make it a seven-game series.''

Of his first playoff experience, Faried said he has learned ''it's hard, that it's intense. You've got to bring it every night. You can't have the little mix-ups that you had in March or February. You've got to stay focused. You've got to bring it every night.''

The Nuggets hadn't lost perspective on their dire situation, taking a moment during practice in Colorado to chuckle at the memory of the 20-year-old woman who wandered onto the court during Game 4. Faried thanked the woman for giving him a breather while she apparently called for former Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin.

''I gave her his number,'' Harrington said. ''Hopefully they can contact.''

W LAL 92, DEN 88
L DEN 99, LAL 84
W LAL 104, DEN 100
W LAL 103, DEN 88
L SAC 113, LAL 96
Probable Starters
#3 Ebanks SF #8 Gallinari
#16 Gasol PF #35 Faried
#17 Bynum C #25 Mozgov
#24 Bryant SG #6 Afflalo
#7 Sessions PG #3 Lawson

Lakers Matt Barnes
(sprained right ankle) is day-to-day.
Devin Ebanks
(middle & ring finger contusions, left hand) is probable.

Al Harrington
(right knee strain) is probable.
Wilson Chandler
(left hip, labral tear) is out.
Rudy Fernandez
(lower back strain) is out.

Game 1: 4/29 - DEN @ LAL W 103-88
Game 2: 5/01 - DEN @ LAL W 104-100
Game 3: 5/04 - LAL @ DEN L 99-84
Game 4: 5/06 - LAL @ DEN W 92-88
Game 5: 5/08 - DEN @ LAL
* Game 6: 5/10 - LAL @ DEN
* Game 7: 5/12 - DEN @ LAL
Game 1: 12/31 - DEN @ LAL W 92-89
Game 2: 01/01 - LAL @ DEN L 99-90
Game 3: 02/03 - LAL @ DEN W 93-89
Game 4: 04/13 - DEN @ LAL W 103-97

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