Posted by Sabrina B. @gametimegirl
The upstartÂ Denver NuggetsÂ are one win from running the lumberingÂ Los Angeles LakersÂ and their star-studded cast right out of the playoffs.
Ty LawsonÂ scored 32 points, fellow spark plugÂ Corey BrewerÂ added 18 and the free-wheeling, too-young-to-scare Nuggets forced a Game 7 in their first-round playoff series with a dominating 113-96 win Thursday night.
“This is the biggest game he’s ever played in, and Saturday will be even bigger,” Nuggets coach George Karl said of Lawson, whose 32 points were a career playoff high.
The decisive game is Saturday night at Staples Center, Denver’s first all-or-nothing showdown since losing to Utah in Game 7 of the 1994 Western Conference semifinals. But it would be a mistake to think the young team will cave under the pressure of a win-or-go-home scenario.
The Nuggets have not only held their own against the Lakers, but they have made them look old, not experienced.
Kobe BryantÂ followed his 43-point outburst in Game 5 with 31 points in 3 1/2 quarters despite a sour stomach that he said left his hotel room “looking like a scene from ‘The Exorcist,’” and that prevented him from attending the Lakers’ morning shootaround and forced him to take intravenous fluids all day.
Bryant’s teammates felt even worse — for letting him down, especially fellow starsÂ Andrew Bynum, who made just four of 11 shots for 11 points, andÂ Pau Gasol, who was 1-for-10 for three points with three rebounds.
Asked whether he felt his teammates had matched his heart, Bryant retorted, “No, of course they didn’t.”
“We didn’t step up and meet [the Nuggets'] energy,” Bryant said, and by “we” he meant Bynum and Gasol. “They know that. I expect them to come out Game 7, and play with a sense of urgency and a sense of desperation that wasn’t there the last two games.”
If not, the Lakers will be hitting the links next week instead of the boards.
“Kobe being dehydrated and all that and sick as a dog, coming out and trying to will us to a win, it’s disappointing to watch him give that type of effort … and we don’t get it from everybody,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “Our second- and third-best players are Drew and Pau, and the reality is both of those guys got to play better in order for us to win.”
Bryant said he was eager forÂ Metta World Peace’s return to the lineup Saturday night. The fiery forward served the final game of his seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City’sÂ James HardenÂ in the head last month. He’s been practicing with the Lakers but left the arena before games.
“I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he’s known for,” Bryant said. “He’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with a sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I’m looking forward to having him by my side again.”
If that was another shot at Bynum and Gasol, so be it. Bryant was loud and clear over his disgust with their lack of effort, energy and effectiveness.
“I talked with Pau a little bit after the game; I’ll speak with Andrew, too,” about performing better both physically and mentally in Game 7, Bryant said.