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Although Andrew Bynum thought it would be "easy" to close out the Nuggets in game five, no one besides Kobe actually stepped up to the challenge. Bynum provided the Nuggets some bulletin board material before the game, stating, "Close out games are kind of easy. Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning, so we want to come out and establish an early lead and protect it." Bynum's comment is actually pretty spot on, but the execution of the Lakers to start the game would make him eat crow. The Nuggets won the first three quarters, and they were able to keep the Lakers at an arm's length until the final minutes when Kobe took over with a flurry of 3's that almost led to a victory. The Nuggets eked out the victory after Kobe missed a contested 3 from the far wing and Sessions missed a second chance opportunity with a wide open 3 at the near wing as the buzzer went off. The Nuggets won 102-99 and have now forced a game six in Denver. With the score ending up so close, the Lakers will watch the film and be disappointed by the amount of miscues and unforced errors they committed.
Kobe came out of the gate very aggressive and looked to put Denver away early. However, Kobe could not connect on his jumper and he ended up finishing the first quarter 3-10 for 7 points, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Kobe forced two 3's and could not connect on his mid range jumper. However, Kobe did attack the basket hard on four different occasions, and he finished on three of them. Kobe also set up his teammates for open looks, but the shots weren't falling. Pau and Barnes missed multiple wide open looks off of drive and kicks from Kobe. With Bynum doubled off of the ball on almost every possession, the Lakers really struggled to establish an inside presence. Bynum actually had a very active quarter, especially on the glass, Drew went 2-4 for 6 points and 7 rebounds. Unfortunately, Drew would only gather 4 more rebounds for the rest of the game. Pau finished the quarter 1-4 for 3 points and 2 rebounds. The Lakers did gather 6 offensive rebounds to start, but those second chance opportunities only led to 5 points. The Nuggets finished the quarter up 26-23. It was evident from the beginning that the Nuggets were not going to be steamrolled.
In the second quarter, the Nuggets extended their lead, winning the quarter 23-20 and entering the half up by 6. The second quarter started very ugly as the second unit struggled to score. The second unit only scored 7 points in the opening five minutes of the quarter. The first possession yielded a shot clock violation as Ramon Sessions made an ill-advised decision to pass up an open jumper and instead dump the ball off to Jordan Hill as the shot clock expired. The next possession, Sessions pounded the ball the entire possession and ended up shooting an air ball contested jumper to beat the shot clock. Following a Barnes 3, Denver called timeout and Kobe and Bynum checked in at the 7:11 mark.
Although Bynum completely disappeared in the quarter, Kobe kept the Lakers within striking distance. Following an open jumper brick from Barnes, the Lakers looked to establish Bynum. Kobe dribbled at the near top and he fed Bynum the ball at the near block. Bynum took one dribble to back down, but as he backed down, Al Harrington pulled off the classic veteran move of pulling the chair. Bynum immediately fell over and landed on his butt as he lost the ball for a turnover. The Lakers went right back into Bynum. He caught it at the far block, held the ball, was tripled, and kicked it to an open Barnes at the near wing. Barnes swung to Blake at the far wing, and Blake drove middle and hit Barnes at the near wing. Barnes swung to Kobe at the near side 3, and Kobe used a pick from Hill to attack middle. As Kobe went middle, Barnes dove from the top of the 3 into the lane. Kobe hit him on the dive and Barnes finished. Although Barnes struggled mightily with his jumper on the night, his activity was great. A little later, the Lakers went back into Bynum. Bynum was in an iso at the far mid block. The defense sagged on him, so he kicked it out to an open Kobe at the far top 3. Kobe attacked to his right and went to the rim hard with both hands on the ball. Kobe took the foul and sank the free throws. Kobe later attacked in transition and was fouled on his layup. He sank the free throws. The next possession, he took another foul in transition and sank both his free throws. Kobe followed this with a nice baseline drive from the far side. Kobe went up strong for a two handed dunk. JaVale McGee swatted the dunk, but only because he stuck his hand through the rim for a goaltend violation.