Prepare for takeoff!
See, that wasn't so hard, now was it? All you have to do is come out energized and focused and playing a little bit of defense--that's how you win a close-out game. After looking like death warmed over in Games 5 and 6 against the Nuggets, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum came alive in a "do or die" Game 7 and led the Lakers to a 96-87 win, advancing them to the second round.
In Game 6, Pau Gasol played probably his worst game ever in four years on the Lakers roster, scoring a paltry 3 points and grabbing just 3 rebounds. He knew he hadn't played well, but the question was how was he going to remedy that in Game 7. Here's how: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks. He was all-around awesome, with an aggressiveness we haven't seen from him in a long time.
Pau Gasol was consumed by determination, holding off Kenneth Faried with one arm and relentlessly tipping the ball at the hoop with the other in the fourth quarter of Game 7. One, two, three, four - five! - offensive rebounds later, the ball finally surrendered and dropped through the hoop.
''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.''
Andrew Bynum also stepped up and did some damage, scoring 16 points, grabbing 18 rebounds (a playoff career high) and blocking 6 shots of his own. And let's not forgot the return of Metta World Peace, who scored 15 points in his first game back from suspension. He hit four 3-pointers and played amazing defense on Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller (who shot a combined 2-19). Mike Brown said it best.
''He made plays tonight that won't show up in the stat sheet that were absolutely amazing for us defensively,'' said Mike Brown. ''Just his presence alone helped us out, and that's what we missed the first six games. ... He was monstrous for us tonight.''
And then there was Steve Blake who scored a playoff career-high 19 points, hitting five of his six 3-pointers. Blake was on fire from the start, hitting open shots as Kobe Bryant found him in the corner or at the elbow, time and time again.
Playing big minutes in relief of Sessions, Blake had impact almost immediately. He hit his first triple late in the first, then two more in the second. In all, he hit his first five and finished with 19 points, good for the second-best total on the team. Plus, he forced turnovers at the other end, fought for loose balls and generally did his scrappy Steve Blake thing. A huge moment for a guy who has had far more downs than ups in his Lakers career.
Oh, that Kobe guy wasn't too bad either. He scored 17 points and had 8 assists. Not his most spectacular game, but it didn't need to be with the help he received from his teammates. I'll take it.
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and moms-to-be, as well as all the fathers who pull double duty!