By Spencer Hirsch |Asst. Sports Editor|
In a game seven, with everything on the line, Kobe took Lakers nation by surprise: he trusted his teammates, throwing pass after pass after pass, picking up eight huge assists in the team’s 96-87 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
His teammates did not let him down, as they made big shots in big moments, led by veteran point guard Steve Blake, who undeniably had his best game in a Lakers’ uniform. Blake scored a playoff career-high 19 points, going 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.
Metta World Peace followed Blake’s lead, scoring 15 points, 12 of which came from his four 3-pointers. More importantly, he shut down Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller to 2-for-19 shooting combined.
”He [World Peace] made plays tonight that won’t show up in the stat sheet that were absolutely amazing for us defensively,” said Lakers’ head coach Mike Brown. Just his presence alone helped us out, and that’s what we missed the first six games. … He was monstrous for us tonight.”
As good as World Peace and Blake were, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were fantastic. Gasol had 23 points, 17 rebounds (11 of which were offensive), six assists and four blocked shots. Bynum had 16 points, a playoff career-high 18 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Gasol finally brought that fire and emotional play that Lakers fans have been waiting to see from him. There was one play that best exemplified his grit and determination, as he kept tipping the ball at the rim to try and put his team back up in the fourth quarter. Sure enough, his sixth attempt was a success, bringing the Lakers’ faithful to their feet.
”We were aggressive,” Gasol said. ”We attacked the paint better. We pounded the boards as hard as we could, every single time. … Our backs against the wall also had something to do with it.”
The team will have to quickly forget about this win, as they are in route to Oklahoma City to face Kevin Durant and his tough Thunder squad tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.
There are plenty of plot lines that have people buzzing about this series.
For one, Kobe’s best friend and long teammate Derek Fisher, was picked up by the Thunder after the Lakers decided to part ways with the veteran leader to get quicker in the backcourt. Kobe and Fisher are both seeking their sixth championship ring, as they won five together in the purple and gold.
Second, and most interesting, Peace’s seven-game suspension came as a result of his crushing elbow to Thunder guard James Harden’s head. He is sure to get a packed house of boos from the Thunder crowd the moment his name is announced in the starting lineup, not to mention every time he touches the ball on the offensive end.
This is sure to be an epic six or seven-game series, but only if the Lakers play like they did in game 7 of their first round series against the Nuggets. It will take heart, grit, determination and team play for the Lakers to pull away victorious four times in this series. It will not be easy by any means, but if they can get MVP-like play from Kobe, great performances from Gasol and Bynum, a solid defensive effort from Peace on Durant game in and game out, and if they can get Blake to step up off of the bench and hit three-pointers, anything is possible.