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Lakers know this one won't be easy

After failing to close out Nuggets, Lakers head to Denver for Game 6. But at least they don't provide any bulletin-board material.

May 09, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan

The Lakers didn't talk to reporters before getting on their charter flight Wednesday, probably the wisest decision they made in the first round.

It meant no more inflammatory quotes in a first-round series that could suddenly combust.

The Lakers hold a 3-2 series lead over the Denver Nuggets, though that could change almost as quickly as a JaVale McGee alley-oop dunk or Ty Lawson fastbreak layup.

It's understandable if they are less sure of themselves than Oklahoma City or San Antonio. Those teams swept their first-round opponents. The Lakers could be pushed to the maximum, if not flat-out eliminated.

After Game 6 on Thursday in Denver, their next appearance is Saturday. What's unknown is whether it's a Game 7 at Staples Center or a Game 1 at Oklahoma City.

"I feel these guys are champions," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Tuesday, trying to massage any wounded egos. "I feel these guys are winners. We're still sitting in a good spot, but we obviously just made it tougher on ourselves. We just have to take care of business on the road."

The road? Where the Lakers were 15-18 in the regular season and a 50-50 proposition so far in the playoffs?

If Brown wants to create some motivational material of his own, he can remind the Lakers they are 42-1 after taking a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. And they're a still-impressive 12-2 in close-out games since acquiring Pau Gasol in 2008.

Kobe Bryant had 43 points and almost brought the Lakers back Tuesday from a 15-point deficit before missing two late three-point attempts. He didn't seem overly troubled by a 102-99 loss.

By all accounts, the Lakers' locker room wasn't chaotic afterward. Surprised, but not angry.

"I've been in this position before," Bryant said. "A lot of guys on the team haven't been in that position before. It's important to remind them…it's not the end of the world."

The Lakers better hope McGee stops "blossoming," as Bryant put it, the Nuggets' 24-year-old reserve center either incredible or bland this series. In Nuggets victories, he averages 18.5 points and 14.5 rebounds. In their losses, he averages five points and 6.3 rebounds.

Gasol could help the cause by scoring more than the nine points he mustered in Game 5. And Ramon Sessions looked relatively solid in his first four playoff games but fell down Tuesday (nine points, three-for-12 shooting).

Andrew Bynum, who fired up the Nuggets by saying close-out games could be easy, didn't apologize for his comments but acknowledged he could have done more in Game 5.

"I just have to get down the court earlier, get there first," he said.

The Lakers were even losers in the rules department.

They complained to the NBA disciplinary office Wednesday that the Nuggets used a laptop computer in the huddle for a timeout with 19.9 seconds left in Game 5. The NBA informed them that teams have been allowed to do it all season.

"It is permissible to use a laptop or tablet (i.e., iPad) for the purposes of accessing, using or presenting statistical and scouting information to players and coaches during games," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement.

As long as game video is not from the current game, it is allowed, Frank added.

The Nuggets countered by saying they did not use a computer in the huddle Tuesday but did in past games.

"We have all of their end-of-game plays on a laptop," Nuggets Coach George Karl told the Denver Post. "You're allowed to bring scouting preparation information on a laptop….It can't be of the [current] game."

Which leaves the Lakers where, exactly? Following the lead of Bryant, as usual.

"We have to go up there in a tough environment, gain some experience and earn your stripes," he said.

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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