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Lakers locate second shooters, beat Nuggets for 3-1 series lead

L.A.'s Big Three — Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — step aside in the final minute as Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake hit clutch three-pointers to lift Lakers to gritty 92-88 victory at Denver.

May 06, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers power forward Pau Gasol hugs guard Steve Blake after he made a key three-pointer in the final minute of their victory over the Nuggets in Game 4 on Sunday night in Denver.
Lakers power forward Pau Gasol hugs guard Steve Blake after he made a key… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

DENVER — There used to be only one point guard who made big shots for the Lakers. Now there are two.

It's supposed to be Kobe Bryant's team, followed closely by Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions made three-pointers on consecutive possessions in the final minute to push the Lakers to a 92-88 victory Sunday over the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Blake was beaming at the end of the game, a rare sight, and Sessions' friends and family members were going nuts somewhere in Myrtle Beach, S.C., eagerly eating up his tiebreaking shot on the 65-inch TV he bought for a bar there last month.

They might want to tune in to Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center. The Lakers lead the best-of-seven first-round series, 3-1.

In a frantic game with 18 lead changes and 16 ties, Sessions' shot from the right wing, after a rock-solid screen by Gasol floored Danilo Gallinari, gave the Lakers an 89-86 lead with 48.1 seconds left.

Not to be outdone, Blake drilled a three-pointer from the left corner with 18.9 seconds left. Make that the much-maligned Blake. He came into Sunday with 26.7% accuracy in the series and exactly three points since the second quarter of Game 1.

Bryant's biggest play was a pass to Blake, not a shot, another surprise for the Lakers in a season teeming with them.

Bryant passing to Blake? Even Blake couldn't stifle a laugh.

"Yeah, I was ready," he said. "Those [other] guys are so good at drawing double teams. They trust us. That's what it's going to take to be a really good team is to trust each other."

Bryant grabbed Blake after the shot and threw his arms around him.

"It's always a good moment when you get a hug from Kobe," Blake said. "You know you did something right."

Blake deserved similar recognition a few minutes earlier, coming from behind to block Gallinari's layup attempt. Gallinari is 6 feet 10. Blake is 6 feet 3.

"I don't think he saw me," Blake said. "Probably my first or second of the year."

It was actually his third blocked shot. Even he was trying to shortchange his accomplishments.

Bryant had 22 points and Bynum scored 19. Jordan Hill continued to produce as a reserve, totaling 12 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes.

"We haven't had a guy that's consistently had his numbers coming off the bench all year," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said.

Nor did they know what they would get from Sessions, who never experienced a playoff series in his first four NBA seasons.

The Lakers shipped out Derek Fisher within an hour of acquiring Sessions the morning of the trade deadline. They lost a guiding voice in the locker room, not to mention the maker of so many clutch shots, but they gained speed and youth.

"He's a guy that can't be replaced," Sessions said deferentially of Fisher. "I'm just trying to come in and play my game."

Sessions had 12 points and outscored Ty Lawson, who had only 11 on five-for-13 shooting.

No shot was bigger in Sessions' career than the three-pointer. The people at the bar would vouch for it.

"Oh, I know they went crazy," Sessions said. "They're probably still going crazy in there."

Sessions was playing when a woman walked onto the court with 1:15 left in the second quarter. It was a bizarre scene, and the woman seemed confused as she was taken away by security guards. She was later cited for trespassing by police officers.

"It really didn't sink in because the flow of the game was kind of going," Sessions said. "She kind of stood there. I thought she dropped something and was trying to pick it up."

The Lakers took back the rebounding edge, 48-38, after losing it against the smaller, quicker Nuggets in the previous two games.

They also played defense in the second half, allowing only 37 points on 38.5% shooting after surrendering 51 first-half points.

Game 4 was theirs. The series could come as quickly as Tuesday.

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