Los Angeles wins series 4-3 (Game 7 of 7)

Los Angeles wins series 4-3

Game 1: Sunday, April 29th
Game 2: Tuesday, May 1st
Game 3: Friday, May 4th
Game 4: Sunday, May 6th
Game 5: Tuesday, May 8th
Game 6: Thursday, May 10th
Game 7: Saturday, May 12th

Nuggets 87

(38-28, 18-15 away)

Lakers 96

(41-25, 26-7 home)

    Coverage: TNT

    10:30 PM ET, May 12, 2012

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    DEN 24 18 26 1987
    LAL 25 23 21 2796

    Top Performers

    Den: T. Lawson 24 Pts, 5 Reb, 6 Ast

    LAL: P. Gasol 23 Pts, 17 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 Blk

    Pau Gasol-led Lakers top Nuggets in Game 7; Metta World Peace adds 15 points in return

    Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES -- Pau Gasol was consumed by determination, holding off Kenneth Faried with one arm and relentlessly tipping the ball at the hoop with the other in the fourth quarter of Game 7. One, two, three, four -- five! -- offensive rebounds later, the ball finally surrendered and dropped through the hoop.

    A few minutes later, the truth was as undeniable as that 7-foot Spaniard. Although the Nuggets drove them to the brink of playoff collapse, the Los Angeles Lakers still have the tenacity to win on the biggest nights of the postseason.

    Even when Kobe Bryant doesn't lead them.

    Gasol had 23 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots, Metta World Peace scored 15 points in his return from a seven-game suspension, and the Lakers outlasted Denver for a thrilling 96-87 victory Saturday night to win their first-round series.

    Steve Blake scored a playoff career-high 19 points and Bryant had a quiet 17 points and eight assists against regular double-teams for the Lakers, who blew a 16-point lead in the second half before surviving a finale with wild momentum swings and furious physical play.

    With Gasol leading the Lakers' emotional effort -- exemplified by those five offensive rebounds on a single, unbelievable tip play with 7:10 left -- the Lakers narrowly avoided becoming the ninth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead.

    "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."

    Andrew Bynum had 16 points, a career playoff-high 18 rebounds and six blocked shots for Los Angeles, which must open the second round Monday night in Oklahoma City against the second-seeded Thunder.

    Ty Lawson and Al Harrington scored 24 points apiece for the sixth-seeded Nuggets, who committed 19 turnovers and managed just 7-of-27 shooting in the fourth quarter. Arron Afflalo scored 15 points in just the third Game 7 in franchise history for the Nuggets, who have lost in the first round in eight of the last nine postseasons -- but never with this much excitement.

    "Tomorrow or the next day, when the funk gets out of your body, you're going to be proud of them," Denver coach George Karl said. "I've never been in a locker room at the end of a season where every guy in front of me, I'm happy with and I'm content with. ... The game was so physical. I think their size won over our speed. We gave a great effort. We made them miss enough shots to win, but we just didn't rebound the ball."

    The Lakers appeared to be in control of the series after a narrow victory in Game 4 last weekend, but the Nuggets rallied for two straight dominant victories. Game 7 was a barn-burner, with both teams blowing significant leads in the final minutes as this stark clash of styles between the physical Lakers and the speedy Nuggets was resolved in the very last minutes.

    "It's tough," Lawson said. "We played together, and played as a team. Just the way it went down is kind of tough for us. We fought hard and showed a lot of energy. Next year, we're going to be even better."

    World Peace hit four 3-pointers and energized Los Angeles with tough defense in his return. The former Ron Artest missed Los Angeles' regular-season finale and the first six games against Denver for viciously elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year and one of his probable defensive assignments in the next round.

    World Peace doesn't plan to seek out Harden to make peace before the opener, saying he rarely talks to even his friends on opposing teams before games.

    "I don't shake substitutions' hands," World Peace said.

    Although he also launched 11 3-pointers, hitting four, World Peace used that attitude to help shut down Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller, holding them to a combined 2-for-19 shooting.

    "He made plays tonight that won't show up in the stat sheet that were absolutely amazing for us defensively," said Mike Brown, who shrugged off Magic Johnson's pregame pronouncement that the first-year coach's job would be in jeopardy with a loss. "Just his presence alone helped us out, and that's what we missed the first six games. ... He was monstrous for us tonight."

    With Gasol and World Peace taking the lead, Bryant didn't dominate with scoring, but his playmaking out of double-teams helped Blake hit five 3-pointers in a row before missing his sixth attempt. The journeyman guard is backing up Ramon Sessions, who managed just four points in the finale of his first career playoff series.

    One possession after his five-rebound masterpiece, Gasol put the Lakers ahead for good with a tiebreaking tip-in with 6:30 to play, kicking off an 11-2 Lakers run. Afflalo's 3-pointer cut the lead to 89-84 with 1:09 to play, but Bryant hit a dramatic 3-pointer before Gasol hit two free throws with 31 seconds left, punctuating them with a sweeping punch of his fist.

    The Lakers improved to 15-1 in a Game 7 at home, winning 11 straight since the 1969 NBA Finals. They've won three straight Game 7s since losing a first-rounder at Phoenix in 2006, also the last time an NBA team blew a 3-1 series lead.

    The Lakers narrowly avoided becoming the ninth team to waste a 3-1 lead after losing two closeout games in the previous four days. Los Angeles had been 12-1 in closeout games since acquiring Gasol in 2008 before stumbling twice against the Nuggets, who led for almost every possession of the past two contests.

    Gasol's focus was obvious from the opening tip. The four-time All-Star had just three points and three rebounds in Game 6, but he played the finale with emotion and aggression, hustling for loose balls and rebounds while demonstratively celebrating baskets and playing to the crowd.

    The Nuggets fell behind 62-46 midway through the third quarter, but erased the entire Lakers lead in a furious 6 1/2-minute stretch led by Lawson, who scored 13 points in the period. Denver took a lead on the first shot of the fourth, but the Lakers never trailed after Blake's 3-pointer with 9:03 left.

    Game notes

    Bryant is 5-1 in Game 7s in his career. ... The Lakers played at home on a Saturday night for the first time all season. Their other two Saturday home dates were matinees. ... Fans near courtside included Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg, Julie Bowen, Zac Efron and rapper The Game.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 87 96
    FGM-FGA 35-89 (.393) 35-89 (.393)
    3PM-3PA 7-26 (.269) 11-24 (.458)
    FTM-FTA 10-14 (.714) 15-23 (.652)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 23-54 24-50
    Assists 23 22
    Turnovers 19 11
    Steals 5 10
    Blocks 9 14
    Fast Break Points 18 11
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 20 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 4 16

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Ty Lawson Lawson
    Points: 24
    Reb: 5
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 0
    Pau Gasol Gasol
    Points: 23
    Reb: 17
    Ast: 6
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 4

    Research Notes

    Pau Gasol averaged just 11.2 points on 41.4 percent from the field in the first six games of the series, but he responded with one of the best all around playoff games of his career in Game 7. Gasol totaled 23 points on 9-19 from the field and pulled down 17 boards in the Lakers win Saturday night.
    From Elias: Pau Gasol totaled 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 6 assists. He's just the fifth Laker in franchise history to hit each of those marks in a playoff game. The only others to do so were Elgin Baylor (8 times), Shaquille O'Neal (4), Wilt Chamberlain (2), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1).
    Steve Blake scored 2 more points than Kobe Bryant while attempting 5 less shots than him. It was a playoff career high for Blake.
    In the 44 minutes Metta World Peace was on the court in Game 7, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 18 points. In the 4 minutes he was off the court, the Lakers were outscored by 9 points and failed to make a field goal attempt (0-11).
    Steve Blake totaled a playoff career high 19 points and 5 3-pointers off the bench. The last Laker to record 19+ points and 5+ 3-pointers off the bench in a playoff game was Michael Cooper on June 4, 1987, in the NBA Finals against the Celtics. Cooper totaled 21 points and went 6-7 from 3-point range in the Lakers 141-122 Game 2 win.
    The Nuggets shot a series-low 33.8 percent in the half-court in Game 7. The longer the possession, the more Denver struggled. The Nuggets shot 66.7 percent (10-15) in transition, 40.7 percent (22-54) in the half court with the shot clock at five seconds or more and 15 percent (3-20) with the shot clock at four seconds or less.
    The Nuggets scored a series-low 28 points and shot 46.7 percent from inside the restricted area in Game 7. It was the first time that the Lakers outscored the Nuggets from this range since Game 1. The Lakers are now 10-1 this season when holding opponents to 50 percent or worse inside the restricted area, including 2-0 in the playoffs.
    The Lakers outscored Denver by 18 points with Metta World Peace on the court in Game 7. World Peace's biggest contribution was on defense, where as an on-ball defender he forced more turnovers (2) than field goals (1) allowed.

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