Watching the pregame and start of game from my Colorado home, it seemed like there was no way the Nuggets could possibly lose Game Six. After all, every time the Lakers took a game in this series, Denver seemed to bounce right back with a win of their own.
Now, with elimination on their backs, they looked poised to even the series in front of their home fans and force Los Angeles into a do-or-die Game Seven. And judging by the media and fans speculations, it was going to happen.
Well, so much for that.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers once again with 35 points and 10 assists as Los Angeles eliminated Denver with a 119-92 win at Pepsi Center.
Los Angeles will play for their 15th title against Orlando after dropping last year's contest to the Boston Celtics. But instead of cruising through the West like they did last year, the Lakers needed seven games to beat Houston and six to take out Denver.
"Now we're in a place where we didn't get the job accomplished last year," Bryant said. "Hopefully we will this time. It's been a physical march all the way back to the Finals, every series has been tough."
Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 25 points and J.R. Smith added 24, but the Nuggets led only briefly in the first half before falling behind by 13 at halftime. Although they kept hitting three-pointers, never got within serious striking distance of their opponents. The Nuggets have now lost eight straight playoff-elimination games.
Odom and Gasol both scored 20 points and Ariza had 17 while Los Angeles hit all 24 of their free throws and was 9-for-16 from behind the arc.
"We are really tough to beat because we're using all our weapons, not focusing on Kobe or myself," noted Gasol, who also had 12 rebounds and six assists. "We have a really good team and need to use everybody. That is how we are going to win it."
They are going to need to play like they did last night come Thursday, when they host the Magic to kick off the 2009 NBA Finals.