Rejuvenated Gasol Powers Lakers Past Nuggets in Game 7
2012 NBA Playoffs
Los Angeles, CA
After being called out by fellow All-Star Kobe Bryant following a woeful Game 6 outing, Pau Gasol responded with 23 points and 17 boards and the Los Angeles Lakers topped the Denver Nuggets with a series clinching 96-87 win Saturday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers, who moved to 15-1 all-time in Game 7 home games, face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals.
A fired-up Gasol, who was a non-factor in the past two games, including Game 6 where he had just three points and three boards, poured In 13 points in the opening half. He converted a contested tip at the buzzer to give Los Angeles a 48-42 edge at halftime.
Gasol, who shot nine-of-19 from the field and added six assists and four blocked shots, was aggressive all night as he attacked the basket, connected from mid-range and even hustled for loose balls and rebounds.
On sequence in the fourth quarter, the 4-time All-Star Gasol relentlessly jumped four times under the basket until he tipped the ball into the basket with 7:10 left.
Andrew Bynum, who like Gasol was maligned following a dismal showing in Game 6, had 16 points, 18 boards and six blocks as he and Gasol established an inside presence.
Gasol and Bynum combined for 20 offensive rebounds for the Lakers, who received a playoff career-high from the sharp-shooting Steve Blake. The nine-year NBA veteran Blake shot 7-of-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from the 3-point arc.
Kobe Bryant had a quiet 17 points, while Metta World Peace, who returned from a seven-game suspension, not only chipped in 15 points, but successfully shackled Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller, who shot a combined two-for-19.
The Nuggets, who took the last two tilts after trailing this first-round series 3-1, would not go away easy, erasing a 16-point lead midway in the third period.
Denver tied it at 78-all at 6:50 of the fourth after Miller converted a free throw before the Lakers launched an 11-2 run to seal the final result.
Al Harrington and Ty Lawson scored 24 points apiece for the Nuggets, who have lost in the first round in eight of the last nine postseasons.
Marques Johnson previews the Lakers / Thunder playoff matchup.
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