Andrew Bynum had it all planned out. No problem. Piece of cake.
“Close out games are actually kind of easy,” Bynum said on Monday. “Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning.”
Well, on Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Lakers didn’t play well at the beginning or middle but made an incredible flurry at the end only to fall short.
The Denver Nuggets were able to extend the series one more game with a 102-99 win at Staples Center. Game 6 will be back in Denver on Thursday. The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
To show how bad things had been going for the Lakers, a few people started leaving Staples with six and a half minutes left as the Nuggets had a 15-point lead.
It was shortly after that when the Lakers — or make that Kobe Bryant — went to work. A 21-9 run closed the game to two points with 28 seconds to play. The Lakers had a chance to tie it with 20 seconds to play but Bryant missed a three. The Lakers were forced into a fouling situation and Al Harrington made one of two with 19 seconds to play and the Nuggets leading by four.
Ramon Sessions then made a three with 13 seconds to play to cut it to one. The Lakers fouled and Andre Miller made both and the Lakers were down by three with 12.8 seconds to tie the score. The Lakers had two chances but Bryant missed and then Sessions missed.
Bryant was obviously the only Laker who was playing reasonably well. He had 43 points, including five three pointers. He was 10 of 11 from the line. Andrew Bynum had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Nuggets got great play from their bench as Andre Miller had 24 points and JaVale McGee had 21.
But one of the many areas the Lakers let down was points in the paint, losing that 58-44. It would make sense except the Lakers are so big in the middle. But it underscores how poorly the Lakers played for most of the game.
The game was not well played by either team but the Nuggets seemed to be playing with more energy.
It’s not likely they will lose any of that energy when they return home. The question will be if the Lakers can recharge and refocus by then.
Nuggets 76, Lakers 65, end of third quarter
If the Lakers were looking to come out strong in the third quarter, it was short lived. Kobe Bryant and Ramon Sessions made it a two-point game with a couple buckets. But then the Nuggets went on a 10-0 run, six points by Danilo Gallinari and four by Ty Lawson to give the Nuggets their biggest lead of the game — 12.
The game continued to be ragged with neither team playing well but the Nuggets seemed to be playing with more energy.
If the Lakers were going to stay in this game, they needed someone to step up. Of course, Bryant answered the call. With about three minutes to play, the Lakers had cut a 12-point lead down to three on a Bryant three pointer. At that point, Bryant had scored nine of the last 11 Lakers points. The Nuggets called timeout to try and slow the Lakers' — or maybe just Bryant’s — momentum.
It worked. JaVale McGee slammed two home followed by an Andre Miller basket and the Nuggets were back up by nine. McGee had already accumulated a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
With 1:27 to play, Andrew Bynum made two free throws as did Andre Miller on the other end. Corey Brewer finished out the quarter with a basket and the normally friendly Staples Center crowd was booing the Lakers , who were down by 11.
The Lakers continued their poor shooting making only 25 of 65 (35%), while the Nuggets were 30 of 66 (45.5%).
Bryant led all scorers with 29 points.
The Lakers have dug a tough hole. Can they get out?
Nuggets 49, Lakers 43, Halftime
Bad basketball continued to reign in the second quarter. Neither team was in rhythm. If they were giving standardized tests in decision making and execution, a few players would have been held back a grade.
Finally, the Lakers were able to put together a little bit of momentum when Steve Blake scored on a four-on-one (Denver, defense?) and Matt Barnes drove the lane uncontested for an uncontested layup to tie the score.
But that was short lived as Andre Miller and Arron Afflalo each made threes and the Lakers were down by six. On the next Lakers possession, Andrew Bynum fell to the floor, losing the ball out of bounds -- it was that kind of game.
With five minutes left in the period, Matt Barnes was the leading scorer for the Lakers. What does that tell you?
Kobe Bryant closed it to two with four minutes to play but a couple baskets by JaVale McGee made it a six-point game with 3:05 to play.
The Nuggets had closed out a 10-2 run to take a 10-point lead with about a minute and a half to play in the half.