Kobe Bryant did not receive the assistance from teammates he needed in Game 6 of the Los Angeles Lakers first-round series against the Denver Nuggets. Saturday night in L.A., Bryant was hardly alone, and his cohort’s assistance was vital in the Lakers’ 96-87 victor that carried them to a second-round series against Oklahoma City.
Chief among the contributors was Metta World Peace, returning to action for his first game after a seven-game suspension for elbowing the Thunders’ James Harden. The former Ron Artest was significant defensively, shutting down Danilo Gallinari and any Nugget he was assigned to guard.
He also contributed 15 points to the Lakers’ cause. Throw in 16 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for Los Angeles by Andrew Bynm and 23 points and 17 boards by Pau Gasol – two players Bryant really needed to aid him — and the Lakers were a much better team.
Also, reserve guard Steve Blake poured in 19 and the Lakers were a different team from the one that was embarrassed in Game 6 in Denver.
Nuggets guard Ty Lawson and forward Al Harrington scored 24 each for Denver, which showed a lot of grit and no quit. The Lakers opened a 16-point lead in the third quarter and appeared to be headed for an easy home win. But Denver respond to chip away at the lead and eventually take a four-point lead, causing concern in the Staples Center.
It was then that the Lakers showed a resiliency that was overwhelming. Gasol, in particular, responded with an effort not seen in Game 6, when he was 1-for-10 shooting.
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‘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.”
As for Bryant, he was a facilitator much of the game. He was double-teamed most of the night and so he passed to open teammates, who responded. Bryant still had 17 points — and a deep three-point shot with 49 seconds left that sealed the game.
Now, the Lakers move on to face a young and rested Thunder team starting with Game 1 on Monday night.