May 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) and shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) celebrate after Bynum scores and draws a foul against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of game two of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Lakers-Nuggets Game 5 Preview: Time To Seal The Deal

Playoff basketball can be inexplicable at times. If you removed the scoreboard and kept track of who was winning based on performance alone then most likely the Lakers and Nuggets would be even at 2 games a piece with the series heading back to Los Angeles.

Instead, the scoreboard has favored the Lake Show in three of the first four games and that’s all that really matters.

After being buried in Game 1 the Nuggets got their high octane attack going in Games 2 and 3. Before you could say “Where’s Kenyon?” the Nuggets were the team dominating the paint as they out-rebounded, out-hustled and honestly out-played the Lakers…and then Game 4 happened.

The Lakers were able to grind out a close one in Denver capped off by some clutch moments from…Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions?

Yep, believe it or not Kobe Bryant does have faith in his teammates much to the chagrin of those eager to author the end of KB24’s career. His game keeps evolving as the players around him keep improving.

Beyond Kobe’s new-found faith in his teammates, the really bad news for Denver is that since 2008 the Lake Show is 12-1 in closeout games. But we didn’t need to remind George Karl of that. He’s been on the wrong side of a couple of those 12 closeout contests.

In order for the Lakers to finish off Denver they’ll need to stick with what worked in Games 1 and 4. Specifically by controlling the tempo, keeping Ty Lawson in half court mode and playing stifling defense the Lakers should be done with Denver tonight.

That also means getting Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol involved early and often. Typical of what we’ve come to expect of Bynum he’s been on a rollercoaster since his Game 1 triple-double. Pau hasn’t exactly been a benchmark of consistency either. He’s shifted from facilitator to shooter to rebounder to…enforcer?

The Spaniard showed some serious backbone in Game 4, playing with an attitude we haven’t seen since the 2010 title run. Hopefully that continues tonight. Something else that must continue is the inspired play of Jordan Hill. His activity has been instrumental in matching the play of JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. Suddenly Hill’s become a luxury for Mike Brown to bring off the bench.

One thing Brown can’t afford is to have his team pack for Denver again. This team needs to show that killer instinct necessary to contend for a Larry O’Brien. They also need as much rest as they can get. Some might say playing one more game will allow Metta World Peace to be in the mix for the start of the second round. I’d remind anyone thinking that way that this team needs to get to the second round before that talk can even begin.

Tags: 2012 Nba Playoffs Andrew Bynum Denver Nuggets George Karl Javale Mcgee Jordan Hill Kenneth Faried Kobe Bryant Metta World Peace Mike Brown Pau Gasol Ramon Sessions Steve Blake Ty Lawson

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