NBA Playoffs: Lakers Take 2-1 Lead in Western Conference Finals
I was wrong. I thought Denver was certain to win Game 3 against Los Angeles on their homecourt. Given LA’s struggles on the road against Houston and Denver’s countless win streak in Denver, there was no way that the Lakers could take Game 3 from the Nuggets.
And then there was Kobe Bryant.
Kobe’s last two home games in Houston weren’t exactly the best playoff outings of his career. Nevermind his 18 of 44 shooting performances in Games 4 and 6 against the Rockets, but how about the Lakers as a team just getting drummed in those two games? Well, after one road game in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers road troubles seem to have vanquished as they beat the Nuggets 103-97 to take a 2 games 1 lead in the series.
Kobe Bryant just was not going to have it. Down 2 points with a minute left to play, the assassin took it upon himself to put the Lakers up for good. Kobe Bryant pulled up for the go-ahead 3-pointer that put the Lakers up 96-95 with 1:08 left, and the Lakers never looked back.
Of course, Kobe didn’t just wait until the 4th quarter to show up. Kobe’s 41 points on 12 of 24 shooing carried the Lakers all game long. He also had 6 rebounds and 5 assists to go with it. Those numbers are better than the one’s he put up in Game 2, possibly because he saw a lot more of J.R. Smith guarding him, as opposed to Carmelo Anthony, who was troubled with foul issues all game long.
Carmelo finally came back to Earth, scoring just 21 points on 4 of 13 shooting from the field. Without Melo to lead the way, the rest of the Nuggets were but a shell of themselves, including Chauncey Billups, who despite scoring a respectable 18 points had a very uncharacteristic four turnovers on the night.
Pau Gasol had a very decent game for the Lakers, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. And even Lamar Odom partially showed up for the party, leading the bench with 8 points and 7 rebounds. But the star for the Lakers not named Kobe Bryant was Trevor Ariza who came up clutch from 3-point land, hitting 2 crucial 3-pointers late in the 4th quarter, while burying a couple of clutch free throws as well.
The Nuggets will have to regroup now and convince themselves that they can indeed win the close games. But they will need a much bigger night from Carmelo Anthony in Game 4 if they want to tie this series up, as Kobe Bryant seems intent on putting up at least 30 points everytime he walks onto the floor against this Nuggets team.
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