Sunday, June 25, 2017
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Kobe got some Brown on his shoes and its all good, win 103-94

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 The first half of game five was played about as closely as two teams can play.  The Nuggets and Lakers were tied at 25 at the end of the first quarter and tied at 56 at the end of the half.  Denver seemed to wrestle control away from the Lakers when they took a 71-64 lead at the 7:37 mark of the third quarter.  But the Lakers weren't having any part of that.

Los Angeles went on a 12-5 run to close out the quarter, and it had as much to do with the Lakers' execution as the Nuggets complete ineptitude.  Denver repeatedly played one-on-one, settle for contested outside shots, turned the ball over and allowed the Lakers to score time and time again off of those turnovers.  The Lakers were once again tied heading into the fourth, but that run was only the appetizer for the main course that started the fourth.

The Lakers held the Nuggets scoreless over the first four minutes of the final frame while running off 11 straight points.  They pushed the tempo off of Denver's deep misses and turnovers, and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom seemed to create the most opportunities with their rebounding and interior defense.  They also benefitted the most on the offensive end.  They scored 8 points apiece in the fourth and finished the game with a combined 33 points, 24 rebounds and 9 blocks.  This is the kind of supporting cast Kobe Bryant has needed.

Carmelo Anthony meanwhile had got absolutely nothing from his teammates.  Chauncey Billups and Nene were in foul trouble throughout the game and couldn't play nearly as aggresively on either end of the floor.  This put the pressure on Kenyon Martin, Dahntay Jones and J.R. Smith which is never a good thing for your club.  Martin shot 6-15 without a single free throw attempt and only 5 boards.  Jones actually did quite a bit in only 15 minutes, but he did miss six shots and three free throws.  Smith's performance can be best described as atrocious.  He was 3-13 from the field, 1-10 from three and seemed hell-bent to score.  There were times when he seemed like the only guy on the court, or at least he threw up shots like there was no one else on his team that could score.

Why the Lakers Won This Game
The Lakers had balanced and even scoring across the board.  This wasn't a one-man show, and Kobe must be thankful for that.  Kobe only had 22 points but added 5 boards and 8 assists.  Trevor Ariza had 12 points and worked beautifully on a two-man game with Pau Gasol in the post.  He ran to the baseline using Gasol for a screen and had an open lane to the basket time and time again.  Derek Fisher also had 12 points allowing the offense to come to him instead of forcing up ill-advised shots like earlier games in the series.  Shannon Brown and Luke Walton gave the Lakers solid stretches.  But the star of the game was Lamar Odom who busted out of his series-long slump to take over the latter part of this game.  He finished with a ridiculous stat line (19 points, 14 boards, 3 assists and 4 blocks) and was smiling his way to a game five victory.

Why the Nuggets Lost This Game
The Nuggets lost because they were sloppy and lacked the same aggression and teamwork that won them game four.  This loss put the pressure on the Nuggets for two very big reasons. First of all, they are now in a win or go home mode which can kill a team that hasn't been there before.  Second, They only played poorly for about seven minutes of this game, but that stretch effectively took them completely out of this game.  This has to hang in the back of their minds heading into game six.  Basically they have to play perfectly in order to win.  A team that thrives and plays their best basketball when they're loose can't play not to make mistakes because that's when mistakes happen.

Heading into Game 6
The Nuggets don't seem to feel the same pressure on their home court, and that should go a long way to keep them relaxed and playing with a little swagger.  There is also the added bonus of the Lakers becoming complacent after big wins.  This probably won't happen considering Phil Jackson's success in closeout games, but it is something to consider heading into the next game.
Prediction: Nuggets squeak by to force a seventh game

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