LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12: Al Harrington #7 of the Denver Nuggets moves the ball in front of Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
In a game seven that was the very definition of "Anything can happen", the Los Angeles Lakers were able to hold off the Denver Nuggets in a compelling contest filled with strange moments. After two straight no-shows from the Laker big men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum both played the game with a fire under their asses. Pau Gasol was especially aggressive and effective, scoring a team high 23 points to go along with 17 boards. Bynum struggled from the floor (4-15), but he picked up 18 boards, and the two combined for 10 blocks as well.
But those two playing well, as rare as its been in the past week, isn't all that strange. Strange would be the team's 2nd leading scorer being Steve Blake, with 19 points on 11 shots off the bench. That would be both a career playoff high and a season high for the much-maligned Laker back up who played the majority of minutes due to Ramon Sessions' ineffectiveness. Also joining the unexpected fray was Metta World Peace. It seemed unlikely that the Lakers would be able to count on Metta to jump right back into things and be a significant difference maker with everyone else on the court adjusted to playoff intensity, but Metta was the shot in the arm the Lakers so sorely needed. Metta shot 11 (!) three pointers on the evening, but he made enough of them (4) to justify the aggressiveness, and his energy and defense, including 4 steals, were vital. Perhaps strangest of all, in the moment in which Kobe would have had the most justification to try and win it on his own, he did the exact opposite, shooting just 16 times as Denver aggressively double teamed. But the Denver Nuggets were not to be deterred. Ty Lawson played spectacularly, and nearly led his team to victory on his own. He had help by great games from Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo, but poor contests from Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller were too much to overcome.
Coming into tonight's contest, there was much talk about the negative ramifications of a loss. After all, it would be an historic collapse for a team of this talent level to lose a series after going up 3-1. Now, with a round 2 match up on the horizon, the Lakers have staved off the apocalypse for at least a little while. Now it's time to find out what happens next.