Andrew Bynum’s mouth may have cost the Lakers a victory in Game 5. Prior to Los Angeles’ potential close-out game against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers All-Star center said close-out games are “actually kinda easy” because teams “tend to fold in you come out and play hard in the beginning.”
Well, well, well. Guess who used that as bulletin-board material? The Nuggets. As it turned out, it was the Nuggets who came out and played hard in the beginning, taking it to the Lakers in the first quarter to jump out to an early lead and never looked back. Denver’s 102-99 victory Tuesday night in L.A. denied the Lakers – who appeared to have already moved on and had their minds set on Oklahoma City in the next round – an opportunity to close out the series. Now, the Lakers will have to travel back to Denver for a Game 6, and if the Nuggets win at home they’ll force a Game 7.
Rookie forward Kenneth Faried (10 points, nine rebounds) set the tone when he outran the Lakers big men from the outset and then center JaVale McGee finished off the job when he played like a monster in the fourth quarter.
In 32 minutes off the bench, McGee grabbed a team-high 14 rebounds and scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including four powerful dunks – two off lobs from guard Andre Miller. After the game McGee said the Nuggets used Bynum’s pregame boast gave the Nuggets extra motivation.
“It just made us play harder than the game before. Everybody on our team was rebounding. It wasn’t just me and Faried,” said the 7-foot McGee, who thoroughly outplayed Bynum.
“Coach put it on the film,” McGee said of Bynum’s quote. “That was the last thing we saw on the film. Andre [Miller] gave an emotional speech and we just went out there and played hard.”
Miller was the other bench player that gave Denver a huge lift, as the veteran point guard led the way with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting and dished out eight assists. He also put on some incredible moves that would have made every old YMCA player proud, showing the younger players that there is still plenty of gas left in his 36-year-old tank.
When a reporter asked Bryant if Bynum’s quote bit the Lakers in Game 5, he said: “That’s true. Close-out games can be easy sometimes. But tonight wasn’t one of those nights. I don’t think it made a difference. Did it pump them up? Yeah, probably. Would they have come out and play with that kind of energy? Yeah, probably. We didn’t execute, and they obviously played harder than we did. That’s a lesson to learn. You never want to give anybody bulletin material.”
“We didn’t play with the kind of effort that we should. Our supporting cast has to help out, Pau [Gasol] and Andrew [Bynum] in particular,” said, Bryant, who scored a game-high 43 points and nearly brought the Lakers all the way back with some remarkable 3-point shooting in the fourth quarter. But he missed his last two 3-point shots and the Nuggets hung on for the win.
“It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world,” Bryant said. “Nothing surprises me about this game anymore. I’m disappointed, but there’s nothing you can do about it now.”