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Lakers win in Denver to take 3-1 series lead over Nuggets, but it certainly wasn’t easy

May 7, 2012, 1:44 AM EDT

lakers-nuggets-game4

It took until the game’s final few possessions, but ultimately, the outcome ended up being what we all expected. The Lakers took Game 4 from the Nuggets in Denver 92-88, but the heroes for L.A. weren’t necessarily the likely ones, and the game was anything but easy for the victors.

The Lakers didn’t come close to dominating the way they did in Game 1, but equally important was the fact that they didn’t fall behind big early on the road as they did in Game 3. They were able to keep pace, despite an inefficient night from Kobe Bryant (10-25 shooting), a deficit in production off the bench, and virtually nothing in 20 minutes from starting forward Devin Ebanks.

L.A. controlled the boards in this one, which was a significant change from the way the last two games had played out. Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee were monsters in Game 3, but were virtual non-factors Sunday, combining for just 11 rebounds in total after the two dominated the glass for 30-plus in Game 3.

The offensive rebounding was especially key for the Lakers, getting six more than their opponent which led to an advantage of plus-10 in second-chance points.

Denver executed its game plan nearly to perfection: the Nuggets consistently doubled L.A.’s bigs down low, daring the Lakers to hit three-pointers or anything even remotely resembling a mid-range shot. Time and again, L.A. failed to be crisp enough in swinging the ball to get the open look, and even when the shots were pure, they largely failed to go down from the outside — at least until there was under a minute left to play.

With the game tied at 86, Pau Gasol set a solid screen on Danilo Gallinari. Gallo went down like he had been shot — seemingly a classic flop, one that those of us who love the game simply despise — and stayed down for what seemed to be longer than necessary. As he lied on the court, the Lakers got the ball to Kobe in the lane, who kicked it out to a wide-open Ramon Sessions, who drained the three-pointer with 48.1 seconds remaining that gave the Lakers the lead for good.

On the telecast, this didn’t appear to be your garden-variety flop; it was a turbo-flop of sorts, one that extended well beyond the grace period for the referee to make the call, and one that ultimately damaged the Nuggets’ chances on defense due to the fact that they were, quite literally, down a man in their half-court defensive set.

Gallinari said afterward that the pain was legit, and that he got hit hard in his throat on the play (via my man Benjamin Hochman on Twitter). But Kobe was less sympathetic, saying “You can’t flop like that” in his postgame presser, while Gasol said “I was surprised he stayed down” (via Kevin Ding on Twitter).

That play was huge, as was the next Lakers’ possession that saw Steve Blake knock down an open three off of a pass from Bryant that pushed the L.A. lead to six with 18.9 seconds to play, and put the game out of reach for the Nuggets.

Sessions and Blake aren’t the ones you’d expect to be closing out playoff games for the Lakers, and George Karl said afterward that forcing them to take those shots instead of Bryant, Gasol, or Andrew Bynum was essentially by design. But they came through this time, and now Denver is on the brink of elimination, while the Lakers are one game away from heading to the second round to face an opponent that many believe has more than a legitimate shot of ending their season, as well.

  1. philliphernandez - May 7, 2012 at 1:51 AM

    That was a fun game to watch, especially that fourth quarter. That screen on Gallinari probably should have been a foul but if you look at the replay the ref was yelling at him to get up. I think Gallinari sold past the sale which only works in soccer.

  2. mungman69 - May 7, 2012 at 2:57 AM

    Who do the Lakers loose to next?

  3. lmvs2012 - May 7, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    R u kidding me phillip? That was a CLEAR flop!…

    • philliphernandez - May 7, 2012 at 11:59 AM

      I agree it was a flop but Pau put some shoulder into it so it should have been a foul. Gallinari reacts by grabbing his nose when he got hit in the collarbone/neck, which is why the ref told him to get up. Its nice to see Pau throwing some stiff screens, they will need it in the next round.

  4. lakerade - May 7, 2012 at 3:23 AM

    Obvious flop, he wasnt even sure what part of himself to clutch in pain at. Good win, trust building not only on those last two threes, but on D as well. Close it out tue, go Lakers!

  5. jason9696 - May 7, 2012 at 3:35 AM

    I wonder if Kobe still talks to that woman he r@ped in Colorado a few years back?

    • cassmoney - May 7, 2012 at 4:47 AM

      You didn’t see her run on the court!?

    • bobthis - May 7, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      Obviously a Nugget fan. Consider the source. What an idiot.

      • broncobeta - May 7, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        Gotta love the dudes who don’t understand internet sarcasm.

  6. fouldwimmerlaik - May 7, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    Good adjustments by LA.

    Now finish them off back home.

  7. loungefly74 - May 7, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    Gallo was trying to conjure up the work of Vlade Divacs. he also went to the floor hard a couple plays later on a kobe kick out to the outside shooter hoping to draw a charge…yeah, gallo’s 4th quarter play bordered on pathetic. (squirming in pain and then seconds later to be fine walking off the floor? c’mon man!)
    as a Laker fan:
    – I am very happy to be at 3-1 right now.
    – can’t wait to get MWP back.
    – hoping Blake is building on his confidence (at times, he just looks scared)
    – glad to see Hill is playing tough. we need that.
    – enjoying Sessions slashing to the bucket. keep doing that!

  8. omniusprime - May 7, 2012 at 8:56 AM

    Gallo is such a wimp flopping like that during crunch time, thankfully the refs knew he was trying for the Hollywood play and sympathy from the refs for playing bad defense. Good to see the Lakers closing in on OKC. Only two more games before the player formerly known as Ron Artest is done with that overly long suspension for hitting that wimp Harden with the glass head. Go Kobe!!! Go Lakers!!!!

    • tanna456 - May 7, 2012 at 3:15 PM

      To @omniusprime: You are just the kind of Laker fan that I absolutely loath…. You know the type that excuses ANY behavior by the Fakers. ANYONE that says the Artest suspension was “Overly long” is just stupid. That was a vicious elbow and it was NOT just excitement as only a moron would try to argue that it was. Just admit that he threw an intentional elbow! To call Harden a wimp is just classic talk from an immature “sports fan.” That concussion will no doubt make him more susceptible to concussions going forward and may have altered his brain FOREVER, so stop with the BS ignorant statements. It’s just a game. At the end of the day the Lakers are gonna get owned by OKC anyway and I can’t wait to see it. People like to think that people hate the Lakers because they are winners. The truth is that we hate the OBNOXIOUS Laker FANS!!…………………..

  9. bobthis - May 7, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Sessions was a great get. Not really sure if Artest coming back is going to make things better. Pretty good chemistry going on right now.

  10. fouldwimmerlaik - May 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Oh my, I am so excited to see Kobe doing what he does best. This is why I live. Lakerz Rulez.

  11. Mr. Wright 212 - May 7, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Laker haters I swear lmao. The Lakers are just toying with these dudes. Bynum is going to get fed early AND OFTEN in Game 5. Lakers win going away.

    • tanna456 - May 7, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      YOU ARE A DOUCH! The Lakers are not just toying with “These dudes!” THEY ARE CALLED THE NUGGETS, a$$hole! If the Lakers could have swept them they would have, PERIOD! Yes, they will win and they obviously have more talent, but don’t overstate their greatness at this point. Just ANOTHER obnoxious Laker fan with an obnoxious and ridiculous statement. Start talking real ball and less sh_t!! Why don’t you try showing the world that not ALL Laker fans are ignorant and obnoxious. Go OKC!!!!!

      • cosanostra71 - May 7, 2012 at 3:29 PM

        I could be wrong, but based off previous comments I’ve seen him make, he appears to be a Knicks fan.

  12. vikingsteve84 - May 7, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    Kobe=Championship🏀

    • fouldwimmerlaik - May 7, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just finished re-enacting the last game using my Kobe Bryant Action Figures. This is my favorite time of year.

    • tanna456 - May 7, 2012 at 3:25 PM

      NOT GONNA HAPPEN THIS YEAR!

  13. broncobeta - May 7, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    ZOMG LAKERZ RULE!!

    KOBE IS DA BEST!!!

  14. lakerluver - May 7, 2012 at 4:54 PM

    Bring on OKC!!!

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