Coming into Game 5 at the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers were in a position to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a fourth win over the Denver Nuggets. Despite playing at home in Los Angeles and getting a game-high 43 points from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers failed to close-out the Nuggets, 102-99.
After All-Star center Andrew Bynum scored the first two points, the Lakers failed to keep the lead or even get it back with the Nuggets continuing to destroy the Lakeshow with speed and gritty play inside the paint. Despite the Lakers having the clear advantage in the frontcourt with the two-headed monster of Bynum and Pau Gasol, the Nuggets’ big men have outplayed them with rookie Kenneth Faried and the recently acquired JaVale McGee stepping up in the last three games of the series.
In Game 5, McGee proved to be the difference maker with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Clearly outplaying Bynum (16 points, 11 rebounds), McGee showed his potential by relentlessly attacking the basket and running circles around the starting center for the Western Conference All-Star. Along with Bynum taking a backseat to McGee, Gasol failed to show up once again with just nine points on 4-for-11 shooting and 10 rebounds.
If it weren’t for Kobe’s offensive explosion in the fourth quarter, this game would’ve been completely out of reach for the Lakers down 15 points. With Kobe hitting multiple three-pointers in the closing minutes, the Lakers started to chip away at the 15-point lead, but it wasn’t enough to get them over the top as with the Nuggets ahead once the final buzzer sounded.
Now the Lakers must travel to the Mile High City once again for Game 6 in another potential series clincher. With a win on Thurs. May 10 at the Pepsi Center, the Lakers will advance to the second round to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. With a loss, the series will shift back to Los Angeles for Game 7 on Sat. May 12.
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