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Lakers survive and advance, eliminate Nuggets in Game 7

May 13, 2012, 2:26 AM EDT

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It wasn’t easy for the Lakers in Game 7, just as it wasn’t easy for them the entire series. But in the end, L.A. was at full strength for the first time this postseason, and played to its strengths for much of the night, ending Denver’s season 96-87 at Staples Center on Saturday, and advancing to a second-round date with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the process.

Lakers starting forward Metta World Peace, playing for the first time in these playoffs after serving his seven-game suspension for elbowing James Harden in the head a couple of weeks back, made his impact felt on the defensive end all night long, holding Danilo Gallinari to just three points on 1-of-9 shooting.

The reintroduction of World Peace into the Lakers lineup was noticeable, but more important was the assertion and re-emergence of Pau Gasol as a dominant presence inside.

Gasol played like we all know he can in this one, after two consecutive dismal playoff performances that left us wondering what needed to happen in order to snap him out of whatever funk he happened to be in. Gasol was aggressive from the start in Game 7, and dominated on the glass with 17 rebounds — 11 offensive — while leading the Lakers in scoring with 23 points.

Andrew Bynum had 18 rebounds of his own, and finished with 17 points, but did so on just 4-of-15 shooting.

Kobe Bryant finished with 17 points and eight assists, but for the most part, deferred to his teammates when he saw consistent double teams from the Denver defense all night long. Bryant uncharacteristically took just two field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, and scored just three points on an attempt behind the arc with under a mintue to play that pushed the Laker lead to eight, and out of reach for a Nuggets team that had fought back time and again all night, and all series long.

In addition to the return of World Peace and the re-assertion of Gasol, Steve Blake was huge offensively for Los Angeles. He made timely buckets throughout the game, and finished with a big 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting off the bench.

It was a tightly-contested game for most of the night, but the Lakers were able to get out to a 16-point lead with less then seven minutes to play in the third. The Nuggets refused to fold, however, and played with the heart, desire, and drive that they had all series long. Denver was able to come back to tie the game before the third quarter was through, and trailed by just a single point heading into the fourth.

Bryant’s defense took center stage at that point, as he switched onto Lawson for the remainder of the game. Lawson was controlling the game for Denver at every turn, and had 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting through three quarters. But in the fourth, with Bryant defending, he was unable to get anything going, and went 0-for-5 in the final period without a single point and just two assists.

There weren’t too many surprises in this Game 7; with World Peace back in the starting lineup, the Lakers’ defense was stronger, and with Gasol showing up and giving maximum effort, the Lakers are always going to be tough to stop. As L.A. looks forward to its matchup with Oklahoma City, consistency will be the word thrown around the most in the Lakers’ camp, especially when discussing the play of the bigs inside.

Bryant is always going to be there as an offensive option that is scary for his opponent. But if OKC chooses to take him out of the equation with frequent hard double teams as Denver did in Game 7, the Lakers now know that they have plenty of other options.

Whether or not the Lakers can stop the weapons the Thunder have offensively is another matter entirely. But at least after Saturday night’s win to closeout the Nuggets, they’ve earned themselves the opportunity to give it their best shot.

  1. abchome - May 13, 2012 at 2:56 AM

    kind of easy…huh

  2. moseskkim - May 13, 2012 at 3:40 AM

    Early tests are usually good for championship runs. However lakers had one last year against new Orleans. Okc is a different animal. lakers showed they can beat okc few weeks back. Hope it’s a great long series.

  3. mlhlite - May 13, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    just watch Lakers game an funny mother’s day commentary, followed by Con Air an Bynum looks just? like the dude talking with cage when nick cage is saying he wants to stay on plane… very funny, any1 no his name

    • qdog112 - May 13, 2012 at 12:38 PM

      school?

  4. mlhlite - May 13, 2012 at 3:44 AM

    sorry enjoyed game btw

  5. chilomane - May 13, 2012 at 3:48 AM

    Nuggets are hella young nothing but upside.

    • polegojim - May 13, 2012 at 11:00 AM

      Youth isn’t the only success factor here. The Nuggets are STILL missing the piece they need to contend ‘successfully’ for a Championship…. a TRUE big man in the middle. They’ve been missing that FOR……EVER, and do nothing to change it.

      Horrendous offensive rebounding, one shot and done possessions… that’s where the Nuggets failed.

      Who beat them last night??? Not Kobe… not Bynum… not Anti-World Peace… it was Gasol… a TRUE Big Man in the middle.

      When will the Nuggets learn?

    • polegojim - May 13, 2012 at 11:07 AM

      PS – Lawson was awesome!!! You couple him up with a TRUE big man, and have Faried and Afflalo on that first five… THAT would be incredible.

      Right now, the Nuggets have two 6-10ers and two 7-0ers who play very small. Gasol ate them up in the post and the Lakers devoured them on the boards.

      And…it’s not the ‘number’ of rebounds….it’s what they DID with the rebounds. Lakers turned them into points.

      • dal24la - May 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

        So true, LA got a lot of rebounds in previous games but couldn’t score, like you said.
        I’m glad Lakers are done with the Nuggets, they are VASTLY underrated by ppl.
        They are 1 great star away from being a legit contender.

  6. lakerade - May 13, 2012 at 3:54 AM

    Whew. Learn and reset, new matchups now. #oneatatime

  7. rosesacl - May 13, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    Okc v lakers
    Lakers in 6

    • Mr. Wright 212 - May 13, 2012 at 2:52 PM

      That’s what I have.

  8. mlhlite - May 13, 2012 at 5:01 AM

    just asked myself in the mirror, was Mykelti Williamson. going to be great series though with thunder. Kobe versus Westbrook n Durant. with ring leader Harden . part -time show of Gasol n Bynum. Ending in a show of World Peace, cue the applause.

  9. mungman69 - May 13, 2012 at 6:28 AM

    Hey, this Laker vs. Thunder series should be a great one. I still like the Thunder in six.

  10. lemfax - May 13, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Oklahoma @ 7

  11. omniusprime - May 13, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Time for the Lakers to avenge their despicable playoff series loss last year to the Mavs by whipping the OKC Blunder. Time to show these young whippersnappers that they’re not quite ready for prime time yet, they’ll need a few more seasons before they’re ready to win rings. This should be the greatest series matchup so far, possibly of the whole playoffs. What a difference between the tough Western Conference and the Eastern Creampuff Conference deadbeats. Go Kobe!! Go Lakers!!!

    • blue18hutthutt - May 13, 2012 at 3:08 PM

      Only way the Lakers win is if the overrated chucker Kobe tears his ACL so he won’t shoot his team out of contention and refuse to use his two 7 footers

      Lakers run is over – go home and watch some highlight DVDs …the Thunder are too talented, too deep and too good a TEAM than the dysfunctional circus that is the Lakers

      Best thing for Kobe now is to get injured and have a built-in excuse for why the Lakers will get trounced this round. Thunder in 4

      • urodaddy07 - May 13, 2012 at 7:09 PM

        Wow, Hutthutt, do you actually knw anything about the game? Only way for LA to win is for Kobe to get injured. Dude. I don’t like some of the shots the guy takes but they won’t win without him. If you don’t see that, please reconsider watching this sport. You obviously don’t get it. Anyway, I agree with you that OKC will win the series.

    • dal24la - May 13, 2012 at 5:10 PM

      I am a Laker fan and do NOT approve of calling them the OKC Blunder.
      I do agree it will be a great series; it will have to be for Lakers to win. We have VERY small margin for error…

  12. fordmandalay - May 13, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    OKC in 5, and they’ll continue through and best the Heat for the title in 6. They’re a beast this year.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - May 13, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      I dunno why you people keep expecting a jump shooting team to just steamroll through the playoffs. It doesn’t work that way. That Dallas series was an aberration.

  13. itsmammoth - May 13, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    OKC is about to give LA and it’s fans a reality check.

    • dal24la - May 13, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      We don’t need a reality check, Lakers know this will be the toughest series they played since 2008 except for maybe vs Boston. I think it is other way around. OKC fans are a lot more cocky than LA fans this year.

  14. aboogy123456 - May 13, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Great underrated game by Kobe. In a game 7 where everyone expects him to shoot 30 times, he shows that he trusts his teammates and keps feeding them in great spots to score. He had 8 assists and could have had a lot more.

    Watch the game again Brett, Denver didn’t take kobe out of the game. He was a huge factor and there were even times where he had opportunities to score but wanted to set up teammates to build their confidence. In the fourth quarter Denver came really hard with the double teams but since everyone was involved in the game early and confident, they were able to close it out. This ability to change his game and still be effective is why Kobe is so great.

  15. chitownjeff - May 13, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    giving Javelle Mcgee a long term deal is fool’s gold.. Theirs no way you can trust that dude.. night in and night out..

    • youngmachete - May 13, 2012 at 10:13 PM

      Javale “Great Dane Puppy” McGee

  16. cmehustle - May 13, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Lakers fanatics, enjoy your first round victory. OKC is very similar to Denver only bigger and faster at every position, except center. So while it took 7 games for yall to win 4 it might take 77 games to get four W’s in this matchup.

  17. bigmeechy74 - May 13, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    how do you write this article and not tell us when the lakers/thunder series starts? i just wanted to know what night. how is that hard to mention???

    • dal24la - May 13, 2012 at 5:13 PM

      Monday at 9:30 ET on TNT.

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