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Box Score: Lakers 90, Thunder 106
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 94.7, Thunder 111.6
True Shooting %: Lakers 55.7%, Thunder 55.5%

Ya know… I don’t even know how to start this as I have the unenviable task of writing this Game 5 recap. I’m going to be all over the place (I’m probably not even going to make sense) and I’ll try my best to be my usual upbeat mood. But it’s tough when your favorite team gets eliminated from the postseason.

And that’s what happened today to the 2012 version of the Los Angeles Lakers. After quite the rollercoaster of a season, the Lakers’ campaign is done after losing Game 5 to OK City, 106-90. Yes, there were times when the Lakers outplayed the Thunder… and we even had fleeting hope that they could pull off the upset series win over Oklahoma City. But the difference between a good team and an elite team is that they make the big plays under pressure. And that’s what the Thunder did when they snatched away Games 2 and 4 against the Lakers.

In this game? At times, it seemed only Kobe Bryant (42 points… and he was killing himself in this game carrying the team on his back) wanted to go to a Game 6. Andrew Bynum’s selective focus this game basically summed up his year: all-world center at times… and goofy space cadet at other times. It’s frustrating but we all put up with it because he was so friggin’ good. Pau Gasol had an otherwise good game (14 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks) but they seemed to have little impact on the overall game itself. Metta World Peace tried hard on both sides, too (11 points) but it was amazing he only had five shots. The flagrant foul was a bad call but, ultimately, that’s not what lost the Lakers the game as bad calls happen throughout each game.

Ramon Sessions, aside from having a couple of moments in the playoffs (big three-pointer in Game 4 against Denver), never looked comfortable out in the bright lights, including tonight. This is where we appreciate guys like Derek Fisher (who is doing decent in the postseason) because they’re not afraid of those moments. Steve Blake was invisible today after having an up-and-down postseason. Jordan Hill, at least, showed some hustle and life that you wished you saw out of the other bigs.

Mike Brown did all he could. Yes, we all wished he could’ve made better in-game adjustments but no coach is perfect. He did what he could with the talent and as far as I’m concerned, he did a good job taking the Lakers to the second round of the playoffs. If it’s any consolation, this group won one more game in the playoffs than the group from last year.

Oklahoma City Thunder showed why they’re a great team. Kevin Durant (25 points, 10 rebounds) is cold-blooded. The scoring champion seems to get 30 at will and is the most dangerous player with the ball in his hands in the waning seconds of a game. Russell Westbrook (28 points) is the guy that keeps the Thunder afloat or within striking distance. He was so phenomenal in this series, hitting big shot after big shot. And James Harden did all the little things off the bench. Kendrick Perkins (11 rebounds) did a great job battling Andrew Bynum and Serge Ibaka (3 blocks) was awesome with his help defense and protecting the rim. They’re going to have one hell of a battle against the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

As for where the Lakers go from here? We’ll have weeks and weeks to dissect that. But we should keep this in mind.

Kobe Bryant is 33 years old. He just finished his 16th season. I know some of you are irritated by some of his on-court decisions but we are watching one of the greatest ever to play this game. Let’s appreciate him while he’s still here because one day, that day will come and we’re all going to miss him. Kobe Bryant is truly the ultimate warrior. With him on your team, you always seemed to have a chance to win the game.

As far as the Lakers go? We should be happy that the Lakers are always in the hunt for the championship. Yes, the Lakers have 16 NBA titles but each and every one of them are earned. We have to realize how hard it is for teams to go after an NBA championship. Only one team wins it every year… and there are still some franchises and players that haven’t won one. Teams like Phoenix and Utah have been around forever; those teams haven’t won championships. Great players like John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor, and Charles Barkley haven’t won a ring. Let’s not take this team for granted, guys (though you kinda wish that certain players didn’t take it for granted, either).

Thanks to all of you that have gone to this site for some Laker talk and, on a personal note, thanks to all of you that read my goofy and unfunny recaps. I enjoyed doing them and, hopefully, Darius thinks I’m good enough to do some more writing on this wonderful site next season.

In the meantime, be safe out there. After all is said and done, remember that this is still… just a game. Let’s not do anything drastic just because our favorite sports team lost.

Have a good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

Box Score: Lakers 96, Nuggets 87
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 112.9, Nuggets 102.4
True Shooting %: Lakers 51.0%, Nuggets 47.2%

Say it with me, everybody.

WHEW!

As a basketball fan, it was one hell of a game. As a Laker fan, it was like taking the test for your driver’s license. Yes, there were some rolling stops on the way. Yes, there were times when the game was going too fast or too slow. But in the end, they passed. The Lakers are going on to the second round.

There are a lot of “who would’ve ever thought” moments in this game. And for the Lakers, they were good moments. First off, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol finally got on Team Bring it and had monster games. Pau had 23 points, 17 boards, 6 assists, and 4 blocks. He was phenomenal. HE WASN’T SOFT TONIGHT. Bynum brought the pain (but don’t do it literally on other players, please) with 16 points, 18 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Pau and Bynum combined for 20 offensive rebounds although they were killing a lot of bunnies out there tonight. Bynum could’ve shot better (4 for 15), sure, but all we asked from him was effort and he brought it. Pau shot a decent 9 for 19 and made some clutch freethrows. Well done, big men.

Steve Blake! He brought his Daniel Bryan self and came up huge with 19 points off the bench (YES! YES! YES!). He was NOT hesitant like he was most of the year and shot 5 for 6 behind the arc. That’s how you handle the pressure cooker, Ramon Sessions. Hopefully, Sessions knows better in the next pressure-packed game.

The return of Metta World Peace was huge. He played fantastic defense everywhere (Danilo Gallinari was 1/9, Andre Miller was 1/10, Corey Brewer was 2/9) and provided timely perimeter jumpers. MWP had 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. Just in time, Ron. Just in time.

Kobe Bryant played like a classic point guard (17 points and 8 assists). He didn’t shoot extremely well (7 for 16) but he did his best to get everybody involved. It was a pleasant surprise since I thought he would come out gunning. But his presence got open shots for his teammates. And in the end, he put in a 3-point fatality to put the Lakers up 8 with 48 seconds left. We just all love it when Kobe drives stick-shift because you know he can handle the clutch.

Denver wasn’t going to go away easily. Ty Lawson is one hell of a player. He finished with a 24-5-6 line and took over the 3rd quarter. As much as we start punching walls (I hope you guys don’t punch glass) when the Lakers lose big leads (Lakers were up as many as 16 points), we gotta give credit to Denver’s resolve. Our favorite Ninja Turtle, Leonardo, er, Al Harrington scored 24 points was big for the Nuggets also. Good thing, he turned to Michaelangelo in the 4th quarter because he started chucking early in the clock in hopes of recapturing the lead.

Denver and Lakers both shot 35 for 89 (39.3 percent). That’s how close the game was. But again, we gotta give credit to Denver. That’s a pretty damn good team… and I admit to have underestimated them. Watch out for them in the next few seasons.

Good thing that the Lakers won or I would’ve been the most upset ever since Zack and Kelly broke up in Saved By The Bell. So I guess Mike Brown won’t be fired tomorrow, right (I never really believed he was going to get axed, anyway)? Anyway, we can enjoy our Saturday nights; there’s still time to go clubbing for us West Coasters.

NOW we can all focus on Oklahoma City. But in the meantime, I’m just going to go have a few more beverages. Cheers, everybody.

By the way, Siri, did the Lakers win?

“Yes, they did.”

Box Score: Lakers 96, Nuggets 113
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 101.1, Nuggets 118.9
True Shooting %: Lakers 53.0%, Nuggets 59.6%

Well, before the game, Kobe Bryant was said to have a stomach ailment. Everyone and their mothers and pets immediately compared this to the Jordan Flu Game of 1997. Never mind that this is a first round contest while Michael did this in the Finals.

The game was sick. And Kobe was sick.

Both literally.

The box score really doesn’t indicate on how bad the Lakers played. The Nuggets KILT the Lakers tonight. Not even KILLED. KILT. The final score doesn’t indicate how bad it was, either. Granted, the Lakers had a chance to do something after halftime as they were only down nine. But nope. Ty Lawson was running circles all over them. And he was making pretty much everything (well, nearly… 13/18 from the field and 5/6 beyond the arc for 32 points). But even still, the Nuggets could’ve started Vicki Lawson from Small Wonder and the Lakers would probably get smashed.

The effort of the Lakers? Pretty much pitiful. I feel like I bring more effort to toasting bread than what the Lakers brought in Pepsi Center *sips Pepsi* earlier. Only Kobe seemed to bring it… and HE’S THE SICK GUY that was pretty much ready to throw up all over the bench or maybe Andrew Bynum’s fro. Speaking of Bynum, he was bullied by the Nuggets bigs. Even if JaVale McGee didn’t have a big game due to foul trouble, the others picked up the slack. Once again, don’t be fooled by Bynum’s 11-point, 16-rebound, 4-block… “effort.” He seemed to be loafing a lot of the time and I’m quite surprised he was able to get those numbers (seriously, you can’t defend his performance tonight). Imagine if he was actually following his note to himself after Game 1.

This is the worst game I’ve ever seen Pau Gasol play. He, too, was getting bullied by the Nuggets. His line DEFINITELY tells the whole story. 1 for 10. Three points. Three rebounds. People tweeted me that last year was worse… but Gasol never scored less than eight points in a playoff game last year. THREE POINTS. THREE REBOUNDS. Those stats alone tell the story.

Ramon Sessions played scared. He’s had so many open looks as the Nuggets treat him like he’s Rajon Rondo. When he penetrates, he’s fine. But the Nuggets are daring him to shoot the perimeter jumper and he’s like a teenager who has never touched a girl ready to go on his first date. Ramon has stage fright and he HAS to get over that VERY SOON.

Matt Barnes still can’t make a shot (2/8). Devin Ebanks is, well, Devin Ebanks. Steve Blake is just about what you expected (but, hey, he didn’t turn the ball over?). At least, it looked like Jordan Hill tried (8 points, 6 rebounds) but he’s not enough help for Kobe. Kobe should be commended for even going out there and playing his ass off (31 points, 13/23) but it’s obvious that he needs more help. And the bigs failed him.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, have confidence that is absolutely sky high right now. Kenneth Faried outhustled everybody the entire game (16 points and 11 boards). Danilo Gallinari is getting a little more dangerous with his outside shot and passed the ball well (12 points, 7 assists). Andre Miller continues to school everyone with his rec league game (12 points). And this was Corey Brewer’s flu game except without the flu (18 points). I wouldn’t be surprised if Brewer gained all of his hair back after this game; he was that awesome tonight.

The Denver Nuggets seem to be clones of Mortal Kombat’s Kano tonight; they absolutely ripped the Lakers’ hearts out. I don’t know if the Laker fan would be more disgusted of watching this game, last year’s Game 4 against Dallas, or 2 Girls 1 Cup. The margin should’ve been 75 at the end of this contest. It was bad. Putrid. Disgusting. Filthy. I wish Kobe did really throw up all over Pepsi Center. And at this point, I’m just doing word vomit so I should end this write-up soon.

The good news? There’s STILL Game 7. It’s at Staples Center. But I don’t blame you for not being so confident about it. After all, the Nuggets beat the Lakers in their house in Game 5. If the Lakers match Denver’s intensity on Saturday night, then the Lakers should be okay. But in this up and down season, we’ve nearly seen everything and I’m sure you guys aren’t going to be surprised if the Lakers do something wacky in their most important game of the season.

Another tidbit? Ron Artest/Metta World Peace returns. He’ll provide some much-needed D and he’ll be unfairly asked to save the Lakers’ season. I honestly don’t know what to expect. Will he give a boost or will he be so rusty that it’ll throw off the Lakers’ chemistry? Oh, hey, joke’s on me! THEY HAVE NO CHEMISTRY RIGHT NOW.

But in a way, this Game 7 is all bad news. The Oklahoma City Thunder (Derek Fisher is giggling like a schoolgirl) are waiting in the wings, licking their lips on what they’re going to do to either the Lakers or the Nuggets. And if the Lakers do advance, how the hell are the Laker guards going to handle Russell Westbrook? Well, we probably shouldn’t even think about that. Remember when I said not to talk about OKC in my Game 4 recap? And then Bynum mouthed off that closeout games are easy? Yeah.

Oh, well. That’s that. I’ve said enough. Go ahead and complain on the comments below. I’m going to go listen to Boyz II Men now.

Box Score: Lakers 92, Nuggets 88
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 108.2, Nuggets 103.5
True Shooting %: Lakers 51.1%, Nuggets 49.6%

The Good
This was the type of game the Lakers wanted to play. It was on their favored slow pace instead of the breakneck speed the Denver Nuggets wanted to do. The Nuggets fought valiantly, yes, but it just seemed right that the Lakers were going on this methodical pace.

Kobe Bryant didn’t shoot particularly well (10 for 25) but I liked the way he played for the most part. He let the game come to him and his shot selection had a nice mix. Kobe got into the paint seemingly at will in the second half and he deferred at the right times. 22 points, 8 boards, and 6 assists for #24.

The much-maligned bench got HUGE contributions from Jordan Hill (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Steve Blake (10 points, 3 assists, even a block on Danilo Gallinari!). Hill was a bundle of energy. He had 7 offensive boards. And Blake, of course, hit that three that essentially put away the game.

Andrew Bynum also had a nice game. He could’ve rebounded more, yes, but 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks is pretty damn good. And Pau Gasol had a great all-around game at 13-9-6. And, finally, the Lakers outrebounded the Nuggets, 48-38. They were able to counter the guys with unlimited turbo in Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee.

It’s not like it was a wire-to-wire finish by the Lakers; it was a close game throughout (both teams shot 39 for 86!). But with the way the game was played, I felt confident the Lakers were going to come away with this one.

The Bad
Danilo Gallinari went off. He scored 20 points and was taking advantage of the mismatches he was getting. Andre Miller also brought his old man game and was schooling Sessions and Blake early on (he eventually ended up with 15 points).

Also, the Nuggets were scoring early in the paint. They eventually outscored the Lakers in the paint, 52-48, but the disparity seemed more than that.

And, of course, it was hard to stop the Nuggets when they’re in transition. 18-7 fastbreak points in favor of the Nuggets.

For the most part, it was a grind-it-out game in favor of L.A.

The Ugly
Maybe the disparity would’ve been bigger if the Lakers shot better freethrows. L.A. didn’t shoot very many foul shots but 9 for 18 is ugly. 50 percent. Shaq laughs at that percentage.

Also, did you guys see Pau on the TNT broadcast? He looked completely out. My initial thought? Pau Gasol needs food badly.

The Plays Of The Game
There were two and you know what I’m talking about. There was the three made by Ramon Sessions after Gallinari fell on a Pau Gasol pick that left Sessions open. And then it was followed by an F U 3 by Steve Blake after a drive and dish by Kobe. That gave the Lakers the cushion to beat the Nuggets. I’m particularly happy for Steve Blake, who was (sometimes, unfairly) railed by Laker fans throughout the season. It was so good to see Kobe trust his teammates at a time like this.

One more win and the Lakers advance to the second round for a date with Oklahoma City. Just concentrate on closing this out first before looking at the Thunder.

Have a good week, ladies and gentlemen. Just don’t celebrate too much yet and don’t be like that stalker lady that walked out on the court earlier.

Box Score: Lakers 104, Nuggets 100
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 111.8, Nuggets 107.5
True Shooting %: Lakers 51.7%, Nuggets 52.2%

Seeing as the two other playoff games earlier tonight couldn’t hold home court, we’re all hoping it’s a different story in Staples Center.

THE GOOD
And well… it showed early that this was JUST a bad match-up for Denver. The Lakers’ size was just too much to handle. Andrew Bynum had a playoff career high 27 points and Pau Gasol played the facilitating big man (13 points, 10 boards, 5 assists). When they’re not doing their damage, Jordan Hill came in to neutralize Denver’s hustle. Personal problems and all, he put that all aside by grabbing 10 rebounds. He’s been quite a good third big man for them Lakers. Also… Devin Ebanks? Way to go for doing the little things. Not the best day on the field but he grabbed 8 boards!

Kobe Bryant scored 38 points on an efficient 15-for-29 shooting. He was putting on a clinic early on creating space for his jumpers. He got a bit more erratic in the second half but, overall, it’s hard to criticize 38 points while making over half of his shots.

It’s also good that they turned up the hustle in the second half because the Nuggets were pummeling them on the boards early (they were getting so many offensive boards and second chance points). I attribute that to Hill’s infectious energy. For the most part, the Laker ball movement was good but then there was a period in the fourth quarter that the offense was stagnant. That enabled the Nuggets to come back. But, hey, at least, the Lakers weren’t in Santa Claus mode tonight. They only had 10 turnovers tonight.

THE BAD
Maybe Bynum was only looking for offense tonight. Note to Bynum: the Lakers play better when you play defense. And he didn’t seem too engaged in playing that and boxing out. Bynum got 9 boards simply because he’s a big dude but when this guy hustles, he should be able to grab 15 to 18 boards even with Gasol or Hill there.

It seemed contagious. Denver seemed to get off the shots that they wanted; they just missed them. Ty Lawson’s lightning drives and jumpers were there (he had 25 points). Kenneth Faried’s rough and tumble play was on (14 points and 10 rebounds). Corey Brewer (13 points off the bench) shot decently. But, overall, it was just a rough day in the office in terms of shooting. The Lakers got lucky. The Nuggets shot 4 for 19 behind the arc (that missed 3 by Ty Lawson when the Lakers were up, 95-91, was a dodged bullet, no question).

The Nuggets did beat them in transition, though. Not like you expected the Lakers to get back on transition D but the Nuggets had the edge on fastbreak points, 30-15. When the Nuggets were playing their tempo, there wasn’t much the Lakers could do about it.

And while we make fun of JaVale McGee a whole lot, he did have six blocks. The Lakers oughta pump fake more. Or tell him his mom is making out with Dr. J again.

Oh, yeah. The Lakers might wanna move around a bit more on offense. Especially in the all-important 4th quarter.

THE UGLY
Not that the Lakers were better behind the arc. The Lakers shot 2 for 15 from Downtown (SWV would be disappointed), which made a nice two-story house inside Staples Center.

THE PLAY OF THE GAME
Kobe with the block on Al Harrington’s dunk in the third quarter. The old man can still run fast and jump high! I don’t think I’ve seen Kobe chase down a block in years. Good hustle!

But, alas, the Nuggets scored 100 points so the Staples Center crowd didn’t get them tacos and Twitter L.A. didn’t get virtual tacos. Hey, the Lakers and their fans (us!) shall take the victory, though. They held home court and now go to Denver up, 2-0, in this best-of-seven.

What concerns me a bit is that Denver was able to make this close and they’ll look at this as a moral victory. Yes, moral victories don’t equal real wins in basketball games… but now they’ll have some confidence going into Game 3 in Colorado.

Still, the Lakers are the superior match-up. Take care of business in Game 3. And they can step on their necks while they’re down in Game 4. One game at a time. Push it real good.

But mmmmmmm. Tacos. This recap is over. I’m hungry.