Tomorrow’s notebook today …
Closing time: the sequel.
The Lakers got it all wrong in Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center, which is why they must play a Game 6 on Thursday night in Denver as they make a second attempt to close out the Nuggets in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Since they are still ahead 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, they have a margin for error.
It’s a small consolation, however.
The Lakers’ frustration was evident after they stormed back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter only to fall short in the closing seconds, tumbling 102-99 to the Nuggets and setting up match point No. 2 Thursday night.
Game 7, if necessary, would be Saturday at Staples Center, but the Lakers weren’t thinking about a winner-take-all game after squandering their first try at eliminating the Nuggets and advancing to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the next round.
“They’re just not going to lay down for you, so hopefully, we learned a lesson,” Lakers power forward Pau Gasol said late Tuesday night. “We made it tougher for ourselves, but now we have to go up to Denver and try to win Game 6.”
For openers, the Lakers need to shoot better than the 33.3 percent (15 of 45) they shot during the first half of Game 5, when they didn’t take advantage of the Nuggets’ 41.3 percent shooting (19 of 46) and trailed by 49-43.
What’s more, the Lakers must ditch their customary languid style of play in favor of a more frenetic approach to Game 6. The Nuggets have won twice in this series just by outhustling the Lakers to rebounds and loose balls.
“I feel these guys are champions,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “I feel these guys are winners and I feel that we had an opportunity (Tuesday) and we let it get away from us. The one thing our guys have to understand, though, is we’re still up 3-2.
“We’re still in control of the series. We just have to go on the road and get a win.”
It isn’t as if the Lakers haven’t closed-out the Nuggets in Denver. The Lakers did it during a 4-2 victory in the conference finals in 2009 and in a four-game sweep in the opening round in 2008. This is a different Nuggets team, however.
Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith play for the New York Knicks now and Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin are with the Clippers. Nene plays for the Washington Wizards and Chris Andersen sits on the Denver bench.
These Nuggets are faster, younger and more energetic.
“The running of the game, the tempo of the game, and the pace we play, they’re getting tired of hearing it … but our only chance to beat them is to run them and play with tremendous energy and intensity,” Denver coach George Karl said.
“I think it’s hard to win (a close-out game). I’ve been blessed to win a few series and it’s hard to win the next game. It’s the hardest thing in the world to win the fourth game. I don’t care who you’re playing, it’s hard to win that fourth game.”
World Peace update
Thursday, Metta World Peace will serve the seventh and final game of his suspension for elbowing James Harden of the Thunder in the head during the Lakers’ double-overtime victory over Oklahoma City on April 22.
World Peace (the former Ron Artest) will be eligible to play if there is a Game 7 on Saturday or in Game 1 against the Thunder if the Lakers defeat the Nuggets tonight. He has been practicing with the team, but can’t be in the arena during games.
Small forward follies
Devin Ebanks is averaging 4.6 points as World Peace’s replacement, making 10 of 23 shots (43.5 percent). Matt Barnes, who is Ebanks’ backup, is averaging five points on 11-for-40 shooting (27.5 percent), including 2 of 20 from 3-point range (10 percent).