Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening road playoff game, the Lakers looking to close out the series after taking a 3-1 victory thanks to a Game 4 road win at Denver, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Denver: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, T. Mozgov
6:57 With Denver’s typically frenetic activity being led by rookie Kenneth Faried, grabbing four boards in the opening five minutes, the Lakers found themselves down 10-7 at the first time out. But L.A. was getting plenty of wide open shots and simply missing. Only 3 of 11 went down to start things off, Gasol missing two consecutive jumpers with no defenders in sight.
0:00 For the Lakers to close the quarter down only three points despite hitting only 9 of 26 shots and generally playing listless ball was actually somewhat of a blessing. Denver, facing elimination, had more energy, but the Lakers have typically been outstanding in close out games, going 12-1 since 2008. They’d have three more quarters to find that type of mentality, absent in the first 12. One positive sign was the play of Bynum, who grabbed seven boards with six points.
6:30 After Denver opened 0 for 7 from three and the Lakers 0 for 6, Miller and Afflalo drained back-to-back triples to put the Nuggets up 35-29, this after consecutive hoops from Blake and Barnes at the rim tied the game. L.A.’s second unit was scrapping better than the starters, but failed to contest the three-pointers, Bryant begging Miller to shoot it and Afflalo’s coming in transition.
3:47 A blown assignment from Gallinari freed Bryant for a rare wide open jumper, which he hit just his fourth make in 12 attempts, but L.A. then allowed consecutive easy buckets to allow Denver a 41-35 lead. Blake slipped trying to catch a pass, Lawson laying in on the other end, and McGee slammed home a Gallinari miss in the lane. Denver thus had 11 fast break points and eight second chance points.
0:00 It was a forgettable half for the home team, perhaps fortunate to trail by only six after allowing 16 fast break points and shooting only 33 percent. Gasol was 1 for 7 and Bynum 2 for 5, only Kobe’s aggression (18 points, eight free throws) keeping it close. Not what LAL’s coaches wanted to see in a close out game.
7:21 The deficit doubled as Gallinari led an 8-0 burst, but Barnes (in for a struggling Ebanks) hit the first Lakers three of the game and Gasol following with just his second field goal of the game (2 for 8), cutting the deficit to seven at 59-52.
3:03 A quick scoring push from Kobe, with a two and a transition triple, cut what had ballooned to a 12-point lead early in the period down to three. However…
0:00 The Nuggets outscored LAL 10-2 in the final three minutes, repeatedly forcing long jumpers that hadn’t gone in all night, while converting themselves at the other end mostly in the paint. STAPLES Center couldn’t help but boo as their squad trailed 76-65 heading into the final quarter, Denver in the driver’s seat to send the series back to Colorado for a Game 6 LAL did not want to play.
9:02 A microcosm of the game: Sessions and Bryant failed to convert relatively easy transition opportunities, and Denver responded with a 6-0 run to push their lead up to 15 points at 82-67, putting the Lakers in even deeper trouble. A line up of Sessions-Blake-Kobe-Gasol-Bynum would try to make a final push, but L.A. had been unable to find anything all night. For example: Gasol and Bynum had attempted the same number of shots, combined, as Matt Barnes (14). Getting the ball inside just wasn’t happening.
6:35 Steve Blake, who nailed the dagger three to clinch the Game 4 win at Denver, hit consecutive three-pointers to bring some life back into the building, the second a desperation shot-clock beater off glass … but L.A.’s D failed to capitalize, first allowing Miller a layup (as Bynum failed to protect the weak side) and then Afflalo two free throws. Killing the Lakers the most, however, was JaVale McGee, who swooped in for an offensive rebound, took a huge stride and slammed it home right around Bynum, plus the foul. He missed the free throw, but still had his team up 90-75 with just 6:34 to go.
2:33 L.A. suddenly found some life, going on a 16-4 spurt to trim the lead to just four, with Bynum’s put-back layup and a Gasol jumper preceding the second Kobe three in as many minutes….
0:59.1 BLACK MAMBA, WOW. Kobe nailed back-to-back tough three-pointers, his third and fourth in the final four minutes and change, to cut the lead to only two. LAL was 6 of 8 from three in the fourth after hitting 2 of 12 in the first three quarters. But Denver had answers from Andre Miller, the 36-year-old first converting at the rim with a crafty slip move, then hitting a running bank shot to keep the Nuggets up five before Kobe’s final triple. Harrington and Lawson both hit 1 of 2 free throws to twice give the Lakers a chance to tie, but Bryant missed a three and then a runner in the paint. They still weren’t dead, Sessions hitting a triple to cut the lead to one with 14 seconds left, but this time it was Miller hitting two free throws to keep the Nuggs up three.
0:01.8 Bryant, with 14 of his 43 points in the fourth, rose for a potential game-tying three … miss. The offensive board went to Blake, who found Sessions for a chance to tie to beat the buzzer … but he also missed. A crazy, ridiculous ending, but the end result was a flight to Denver for Game 6. LAL lost the game 102-99, a disappointing result to say the least as they failed to match the road team’s energy. We’ll see you on Thursday in Denver.