The Los Angeles Lakers are going back to the NBA Finals.
The arms of destiny pummeled the upstart Denver Nuggets from start to finish. Nuggets' fans watched helplessly as their team crumbled 119-92, against the relentless pressure of the Lakers, before a capacity crowd at the Pepsi Center Friday night.
When LA was thrashed about by 19 points in Game Four against the Nuggets in the same arena, many in the media and press thought the Lakers were vulnerable to the athletically talented Denver squad.
Playoff coaching legend Phil Jackson all but chuckled after the Game Four blowout loss, because he knew his team had the upper hand. Denver had awakened the sleeping giant.
Kobe was pissed.
Bryant summoned the best from his Lakers team in Game Five leading the charge to victory taking hold of the series at 3-2, and setting up the feast that would come in Game Six.
Still Denver head coach George Karl felt this was his best team and he said before Game Six that he believed in them. Who could doubt him? The way his Nuggets started the playoffs, especially at home, was a thing of beauty.
But alas, it was not to be.
Coach Karl's "best team" had kicked sand in the face of the baddest kid on the block and he took noticeable offense.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter of Game Six.
With about 1:36 remaining and the game well in hand, Bryant (35 pts, 10 asts, 9-9 FTs) left the game to hugs all around from the Lakers reserves as the celebration began.
Conventional wisdom says that a game of four quarters can't be won in the first one but with a 25-20 lead, the Lakers put their foot on the gas and did not look back seizing the Nuggets by the throat effortlessly squeezing the will to win out of them.
The predatory Lakers smelled blood in the ocean and like a frenzy of sharks they methodically beat down their opponent, slowly stealing the breathe and finally the hearts and minds of the Denver players and fans. The silence at the Pepsi Center was deafening.
At first the crowd hung tough but soon the stands began to empty as the Lakers continued to make shot after shot. Paul Gasol (20 pts, 12 rebs, 6 asts) publicly complained after the Game Four loss that he needed to have more touches.
When given the opportunity the Spaniard did not disappoint coming into his own while simutaneously shredding the "Ga-soft" label he'd earned in last year's Finals.
The Western Conference champion Lakers now await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Only the Cavaliers have a better regular season record than LA. If they somehow come all the way back to win, they will have the homecourt advantage in the Finals.
Either survivor will have to be ready to face an onslaught from a team driven by greatness.
This Lakers team is primed and ready to complete their quest for championship gold.