Elimination Games

With a Game 4 loss at Miami in the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder head into Thursday’s elimination Game 5 needing a win, which from a Lakers perspective brings to mind a 2012 playoff campaign that produced two Game 5 losses.

The second was a season-ending 106-90 defeat at OKC in which L.A. trailed by only three at the half, and the first an unexpected 102-99 home loss to Denver that was the first such home defeat in a Game 5 since Pau Gasol was acquired from Memphis in 2007.

From the 2007-08 playoff campaign until this season, L.A. had gone 7-0 in Game 5′s at STAPLES Center. That’s part of the context around the following comment made by Andrew Bynum ahead of that Game 5 loss to the Nuggets, in which he said close out games — like Miami now has against the Thunder — can be rather breezy.

“Close out games can actually be kinda easy,” went the exact quote. “Teams tend to fold if you play hard in the beginning, so we want to come out and establish an early lead, and protect it.”

That statement was music to the ears of Nuggets coach George Karl, who naturally put the quote in front of his players, despite the fact that from Bynum’s point of view it was a simple fact.

In fact, in Bynum’s playoff tenure since the team acquired a 7-foot Spaniard to join him up front, the Lakers had gone 12-1 in close out games, losing only Game 6 in the 2009 Western Semi’s to Houston amidst a series of W’s at home (7-0) and on the road (5-1), until going 1-2 against the Nuggets on the brink in 2012:

Lakers in Close Out Games:
Round 1 Game 4: LAL 107, DEN 101
Round 2 Game 6: LAL 108, UTA 105
Round 3 Game 5: LAL 100, SAS 92

Round 1 Game 5: LAL 107, UTA 96
Round 2 Game 6: HOU 95, LAL 80
Round 2 Game 7: LAL 89, HOU 70
Round 3 Game 6: LAL 119, DEN 92
Finals Game 5: LAL 99, ORL 86

Round 1 Game 6: LAL 95, OKC 94
Round 2 Game 4: LAL 111, UTA 96
Round 3 Game 6: LAL 111, PHO 103
Finals Game 7: LAL 83, BOS 79

Round 1 Game 6: LAL 98, NOH 80

Round 1 Game 5: DEN 102, LAL 99
Round 1 Game 6: DEN 113, LAL 96
Round 1 Game 7: LAL 96, DEN 87

Thus far in the 2011-12 postseason, the Heat are 3-1 in such close out games, dropping Game 4 at New York but winning Game 5 at home, then Game 6 at Indiana and Game 7 vs. Boston.

We’ll see how it turns out starting at 6 p.m. on ABC and ESPN radio.