But with 4:24 left in the third quarter and the Lakers trailing 73-68, Pau Gasol intercepted a Chauncey Billups pass, Gasol then dished it over to Shannon Brown who threw down a one handed tomahawk dunk over Chris “The Birdman” Andersen, igniting the Lakers crowd and changing the momentum of the game in the process. It was this play that sparked the Lakers 21-3 run, which put them ahead for good and eventually gave them the 103-94 victory, and a 3-2 series lead.
Brown’s dunk was the big play of the game for the Lakers and the fact that it came against Andersen, who has been the symbol of emotion, hustle and inspired play off the bench for Denver was huge. It was Andersen that had been igniting the Nuggets with his emotional play all series, but when Brown posterized him, it was as if he reached in and forcefully took the mojo right out of the Nuggets. Remember that it was Andersen that finished with only six points in Game Four, but every time that he did score, it was in a way that seemed to ignite the crowd and his teammates.
This time it was the Lakers that had players who provided them with an emotional spark off the bench. Brown had not played the entire first half, but when his number was called in the second half he responded. Although he finished with only six points, the baskets that he did make were big plays. The other big play that Brown made was a big 22-foot jumper to beat the shot clock, which capped an 11-0 Lakers run that began the fourth quarter, and inevitably, gave them the lead for good.
Another crucial factor in this game was the fact that Lamar Odom brought his “A” game for Los Angeles. He finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Last night the basketball world saw the Odom that makes you think, “Why is this guy not a multi-time all-star?”. He played with passion, aggression and like Brown, provided the Lakers with a lift from their bench. When Odom is playing at or near his potential, the Lakers are as tough to beat as any team in the NBA. The fact that he is 6′10″ and can handle the ball makes him a tough match up at the power forward position.
Before Game 5, Pau Gasol said that the Lakers need to take advantage of their size and get the ball into the post more. The stats show they did exactly that. Gasol, Odom and Andrew Bynum combined for 42 points, 26 rebounds and 9 blocked shots. By comparison Nene, Andersen and Kenyon Martin combined for 18 points, 21 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
If the Lakers can get this kind of play out of their big men in Game Six along with some bench production, they stand a great chance of wrapping up the series. But the fact that you never know what Lakers team will show up makes for must see TV on Friday night.