After the abysmal performance by Gasol and Bynum in game 6, rumors were swirling about the fate of the Twin Towers…and even Head Coach Mike Brown. Everyone–from Magic Johnson to the nosebleed-section bleacher-seated fan knew the outcome of this game would decide more than just who made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Talk about pressure.
King Kobe had this to same to motivate his team:
“It’s one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform. You have to emotionally put your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there’s no other option but to perform and to battle, when you have that, when you have that mindset, your performance shines through, your talent shines through. It doesn’t matter what the defense does. It doesn’t matter because you’re emotionally at a level that is above that.”
Not to fear–with the return of MWP–the only player consistently able to match Bryant’s heart, will, and drive on the court–the Lakers dominated the Nuggets 96-87! Woot! Woot!
With MWP’s aggresive full-court domination, Los Angeles came out strong, and didn’t let up. At the end of the 1st Quarter, the Lakers were up 25 to the Nuggets’ 24…and Bynum had 3 blocks and was looking alive. Gasol, too, came ready to play some ball, changing his game to dominate in the paint. By moving the ball from side to side to increase spacing on the defense, preventing camping in the paint, and re-entering the pass to Bynum or Gasol on post for better looks at the basket, the Lakers were able to hold their own. If one 7 footer was shooting, the other was rebounding…as they should have been doing for the last 6 games.
And the change in strategy from the bigs paid off in big big points.
At halftime, the Lakers had increased their lead to 48-42…led by MWP’s energy and Gasol’s 13 Pts, 7 Reb, 5 Ast. Blake was setting up for a record-breaking game with 11 Pts, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk! Bynum was just getting started with 8 Pts, 6 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Blk. Bryant, always the leader, was feeding the bigs some perfect 2 pointer setups and doing the same for MWP’s and Blake’s 3 pointers, holding back his own scoring to 7 Pts, 1 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk.
Bryant drew first blood in the 3rd, then set up a sweet 3 pointer for MWP to take the score to 55-44 Lakers…but Denver (led by Lawson) came back to make it a 2 POINT GAME with 1 min and 4 secs left to go in the 3rd…and then a TIE GAME at 68-68 with 48 secs left in the quarter–eek eek!
But that’s what the Mamba lives for: KB came back and gave the Lakers the lead with 33 secs to go to close out the 3rd at 69-68 Los Angeles.
And, while the Lakers defense still struggled a bit in the 4th, Gasol’s commitment to rebounding–anyone see him and Bynum rebound the ball 18 times to get that 2 pointer–and MWP’s energy on defense and offense were enough to get the job done. Bryant claimed the lead by sinking a 3 with the doubleteam’s hands in his face to take the score 92-84 Lakers with 40 secs left…and a pleased Justin Timberlake took the opportunity to leave the building after high-fiving the Mamba and his victorious ass.
Jack Nicholson, however, showed he bled purple and gold by staying to the end. He, along with the rest of the Lakers fans, was repaid by watching Bynum get aggresive and attack the basket, earning the last 2 points of the game. Yes!
But will this performance by the erratic 7 footer be enough to keep him in Los Angeles one more year?
And here’s the stats for that 96-87 point win:
Gasol: 23 Pts, 17 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk!
Bynum: 16 Pts, 18 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 St, 6 Blk!
Bryant: 17 Pts, 1 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Blk!
Blake: 19 Pts, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 St, 1 Blk!
MWP: 15 Pts, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Stl, 2 Blk!
Holla at your boys yo! And Get Your Game on in OKC Monday! No. 6 will be ours!