Thursday, May 28, 2009

Western Conference Finals Game 5

1. The Lakers had to play better defense and get improved play from Lamar Odom after a 19-point loss in Game 4. Done and done. The Nuggets went 9:53 with just one made field goal in the second half, and Lamar Odom posted 19 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers pulled away in the fourth quarter Wednesday for a 103-94 victory to take a 3-2 series lead over Denver in the Western Conference Finals. The Nuggets led 73-66 after a Dahntay Jones tip-in with 5:11 to play in the third quarter, but it all fell apart for Denver from there. Trevor Ariza blocked Carmelo Anthony's jumper the next time down the floor, and though the Nuggets retained possession, Pau Gasol came up with an errant pass from Chauncey Billups and fed Shannon Brown for a dunk that ignited the Lakers. Gasol came away with yet another bad pass from Billups, Anthony was called for traveling and the Nuggets were caught with a 24-second clock violation as Denver continued to unravel on its next three possessions. A Billups three-pointer gave the Nuggets their last lead at the 2:24 mark of the third quarter, and Denver trailed 89-81 after their next basket, a Linas Kleiza trey with 7:18 left in the fourth quarter. Odom scored eight of his points during Denver's drought, and Brown, another spark plug off the bench, had all six of his points. Kobe had a team-high 22 points, but acknowledged after the game that he consciously tried to play more of a facilitator's role, dishing out eight assists. It worked, just as it did when the Lakers took Game 7 against the Rockets in the conference semifinals. Pau Gasol had 14 points and 10 rebounds, Trevor Ariza put up 12 points, five rebounds and four assists and Derek Fisher poured in 12 points as the Lakers had five players in double-figures. Andrew Bynum looked solid in limited playing time as well, scoring nine points in 19 minutes. The Lakers had an advantage on the interior all night, as Nene was barely a factor with four points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Kenyon Martin was the only post player for Denver who found any sort of success, with 12 points and five rebounds, while Chris Andersen had just two points and eight rebounds instead of his usual energizing performance off the bench. Anthony provided the lion's share of the offense, scoring 31 points, but went just 9-for-23 from the floor. That pales in comparison to the poor shooting of J.R. Smith, who was 1-for-10 from three-point range. Kleiza, who scored seven points in the second half to keep the Nuggets afloat for awhile, was the lone exception to a night of struggles for Denver. The talented Lakers played near their best Wednesday, and it seems the Nuggets can only hope L.A. can be lulled back into its frequent slumbers for two more nights.

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