Well, it appears close-out games aren't so easy for Andrew Bynum and the Los Angeles Lakers after all.
They have had two straight opportunities to take care of business and move on to their second round opponents, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have been resting for almost a week after sweeping the Mavericks in the first round.
However, the Lakers failed to clinch the series against the Nuggets, first at home on Tuesday, then in Denver last night. Yet, it wasn't the fact that the Lakers lost the last two games that disappointed Laker fans. It was how they lost the games that was a punch in the gut.
Game 5 on Tuesday showcased the Lakers almost expecting to win. Meanwhile, Denver came out and proved otherwise. The Nuggets fought for the lives, while the Lakers went idle. When the light bulb went on in the Lakers' head that they need to perform better and seal the deal, it was too little too late.
Game 6 on Thursday showcased one of the worst efforts I have seen as a fan of the purple and gold. Game 4 of last year's series against the Dallas Mavericks met its match, and not in a good way. There was no desire, no urgency, no will, no heart and no passion demonstrated by any Laker not named Kobe Bryant.
Bryant was the only Laker to play as if he cared. By the way, he had the flu.
The consensus on social media was total embarrassment and disappointment felt by the fanbase and some even calling to trade Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the offseason. Truthfully, with performances like they showed on Thursday, it is hard not to blame them for feeling this way.
With all that said, the Lakers and the Nuggets will now have a showdown in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday night. The teams are entering Game 7 and it's win or go home time.
The Lakers are depending on the home crowd and the familiar atmosphere to spark their energy and hopefully renew the motivation. They are also counting on something else, or should I say someone else.
Game 7 will mark the return of Metta World Peace after serving a seven-game suspension for throwing an elbow at the Thunder's James Harden. World Peace will be fresh after a prolonged rest, but hopefully not rusty after being sidelined for an extended amount of time.
The Lakers will be counting on World Peace's defense, especially against Andre Miller. World Peace can be expected to bring an attitude of intensity since he once again has something to prove to critics. Having an impact on Game 7 will not only bring back some fans and critics to his side, but can motivate his teammates as well.
Will Metta World Peace save the day and prevent the Lakers from an early playoff exit?
We will have to watch and find out on Saturday night. I do expect the rest of the team to feed off of World Peace's intensity and aggression though and that is just what the Lakers need.