NBA Playoffs: Lakers Sweep Past First Challenge, Earn Weeklong Break

Andrew KneelandSenior Writer IApril 29, 2008

Are breaks good things in the midst of the playoffs?

That question may come down to personal opinion, but the Los Angeles Lakers have no say in the matter this time. It's what they get for sweeping the Denver Nuggets.

To their credit, the Nuggets gave the Lakers a good fight on Monday night and held the game close. While the final score read 107-101, it was actually a much closer game.

The game really came down to the Kobe Show.

Kobe Bryant scored 14 of his 31 total points over the last five and a half minutes to lead his team to the six-point win. Laker teammate Luke Walton is still impressed with Bryant's performance:

"He is unbelievable...It's always so comforting knowing you have the best closer in basketball. They were making huge plays down the stretch, but Kobe came right back to do whatever it took: huge plays, steals or an incredible shot like that fade away over Kenyon Martin from the top of the key. He wanted it badly tonight and we followed his lead."

Bryant is turning to a level that wasn't often seen in the regular season. He is averaging 33.5 points per game this postseason, compared to his 28.3 points per game in the regular season.

But Kobe wasn't the only factor in the Lakers sweep over Denver.

The Lakers are 25-5 with Pau Gasol in the lineup, and it he certainly showed why last night. Gasol scored a total of 21 points, 18 in the first half.

When Gasol waned a bit in the second half, Bryant took over.

While Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets accused his team of quitting in Game 3, they certainly gave it their all in this final game.

Sometimes, Kobe says, it feels better to win these close games:

"It feels good to win the way that we won today."

This is the first year ever that the Denver Nuggets have gotten swept in the first round of the playoffs, but the second straight year of losing in the first round.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, will be forced to sit tight while they wait for the conclusion of the Utah Jazz-Houston Rockets series. Utah currently leads the series 3-1.