L.A. Lakers: 15 Best Plays from Opening Round Series vs. Denver Nuggets

Natalie Saar@NatalieSaarContributor IIIMay 7, 2012

L.A. Lakers: 15 Best Plays from Opening Round Series vs. Denver Nuggets

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    After Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers now lead the series 3-1.

    This has been a roller-coaster series. In Game 1, the Lakers didn't have too much trouble beating the Nuggets, but Game 2 was a different story. While the Lakers held the lead the whole time, there were times when it looked like the Nuggets were going to make a comeback.

    Then the series moved to Denver. Game 3 was a disaster for the Lakers. They started out leading, but could never quite catch up, but there were still some highlights to be noted. Game 4 was a back-and-forth between the two teams, and the Lakers came out on top. 

    These are the top 15 plays so far in the series.

15. A Rare Pau Three

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    In Game 1, the Lakers were up on the Nuggets, 59-47. Pau Gasol ran to the baseline and Sessions found him there. Pau went up, the world held their breath and the shot sank.

    Credit to Sessions for finding him deep in the corner. Gasol was 1-2 from the three point that night.

    (Note: see No. 9 in the above video.)

14. The Mamba Makes Threes

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    In Game 3, there was not a lot to be excited about for Lakers fans, but there were brief moments. While Kobe's shooting was abysmal on Friday, he did make some clutch threes that breathed life into the team and fans.

    The hope didn't last long, but it's Mamba moments like that which make losing games bearable. Kobe made 3-of-10 from three-point land on the night, but all three were spectacular.

13. Ebanks Makes a Quick Dunk

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    Ebanks has definitely stepped his game up for the Lakers in the playoffs, and this was his most spectacular one. In Game 1, on a fast break, Blake went down the court, quickly dished it off to Ebanks, who in turn quickly dunked. This put the Lakers up over the Nuggets 35-27.

    Ebanks scored 12 points that night and was 5-of-6 shooting. 

12. Kobe for Two...and One

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    In Game 2 in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant made a base line fade away shot, and was fouled. This put the Lakers up 67-52. He then made the extra point. The fade away might as well become Kobe's signature shot.

    Kobe scored a total of 38 points in Game 2, and was 15-of-29, shooting 51 percent. This has been his best shooting game of the series so far.

11. Kobe Passed!

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    In Game 1, when the Lakers were fairly secure in their lead, Kobe was able to give the ball up more readily. So when Sessions tossed it to Bryant and breezed past, Bryant gave it right back. Session drove all the way to the basket and laid it in. A quick give-and-go. This put the Lakers up 89-77.

    Sessions shot 54 percent on the night and his 14 points were a big reason the Lakers were able to retain the lead the entire time.

10. The Twin Towers

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    When Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum work together in the paint, it's a beautiful thing.

    In Game 2, Ramon Sessions quickly tossed the ball to Gasol, who saw Bynum down court and passed it for the alley-oop. This put the Lake Show up 51-44 against the Nuggets. 

    That was one of Gasol's five assists that night, his second most of the series. Bynum went for 27 points in that game.

9. Beating the Full Court

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    In Game 2, the Nuggets went to a full court defense to try and slow the Lakers down. They responded by stretching the court out. On this shot, Barnes inbounded the ball from under the Lakers' basket, and saw Pau and Bynum down court. He quickly passed it to Pau, who dribbled down to the paint and shot it down to Bynum who, you guessed it, dunked. 

    It was this kind of energy and court awareness that kept the Lakers ahead in Game 2. While it was more of a battle than Game 1, these types of plays were crucial to the Lakers staying alive.

8. Blake's Three Threes

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    In Game 1, Steve Blake had one of his rare monster, clutch nights. He scored just nine points but all of them came from his three three-pointers. When a player like Blake, who is so hot and cold, makes these shots, it's uplifting for the whole team, and especially fans. 

    In the regular season, Blake was 34 percent shooting three-pointers, so it was nice to see him make three and go for 50 percent. 

7. Jordan Hill's Double-Double

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    At the end of the regular season, it was projected by many that Jordan Hill was going to be getting some serious minutes. While he hadn't gotten them in the first three games, Coach Brown finally came to his senses. 

    Hill's overall play was a huge moment in the Lakers' series with the Nuggets. In Game 4, Hill played 23 minutes. He scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double.

    He's a physical presence who has proven to be vital to the Lakers in crucial moments. Hill also has great energy coming off the bench, which was greatly needed in Denver.

6. Sessions to Gasol...Dunk!

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    In Game 3, which had little highlights for the Lakers, there were still some exciting moments. One was the courteously of Ramon Sessions and Pau Gasol. Sessions quickly passed down court to Gasol, who dunked it. 

    While this sounds like a pretty standard play, it's exciting because in Game 3 it was tough for the Lakers to keep up with the Nuggets' speed. So on this particular play, the Lakers sped it up to try and match the Nuggets.

5. Sessions Give Lakers Hope

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    In Game 3, JaVale McGee made things tough on the Lakers.

    When the game was still fairly close, McGee rejected a shot from Andrew Bynum. McGee sent the ball flying out right into Ramon Sessions' hands. Sessions quickly went back up for a shot and nailed it. This brought the Lakers to within five points of the Nuggets' lead.

    Sessions had a series high 15 points in the loss to the Nuggets.

4. Kobe Ramps It Up

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    In Game 2, the Lakers pulled ahead of the Nuggets very early in the game. At the end of the first quarter, Kobe Bryant made sure to get the lead as far ahead as possible. He knocked down a spectacular three before going into the second quarter.

    This ramped up the lead, and the Lakers kept that lead throughout all of Game 2. 

3. Sessions Makes a Three...Finally!

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    While in Denver, Ramon Sessions really struggled to score three pointers. He made none in Game 3 and it was looking like he wouldn't make any in game four either...until he finally did.

    Late in the fourth quarter, Pau set up a pick on Gallinari, which set up Sessions for a pass. Sessions got the ball, had confidence in himself and shot. He nailed it.

    Previously he had been 0-6 for three-pointers in Denver. He finally broke the curse and put the Lakers up 89-86 with less than a minute in the game.

2. Bynum's Triple-Double

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    Again, this isn't a single play, but rather a collection of spectacular plays.

    In Game 1, Andrew Bynum went for a triple-double, and in an unusual way. Instead of the regular points, rebounds and assists, Bynum swapped assists for blocks. He had 10 points, 10 blocks and 13 rebounds. 

    The Lakers won this game easily, but a large part of that was thanks to Andrew Bynum and his record-setting play. This was the first playoff game where someone got a triple-double since the '91 Bulls.

1. Steve Blake's Three-Pointer

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    While the majority of Lakers fans hold their breath every time Steve Blake goes up to take a shot, there's no denying that he can certainly be clutch.

    In Game 4 against the Nuggets, his three-pointer ensured the Lakers' win to put the team up 3-1 in the series rather than being tied at 2-2. 

    There was nothing particularly spectacular about this shot, but it's everything surrounding it. Blake had come off two awful games, and only had seven points in his 28 minutes off the bench.

    Not only did this shot virtually guarantee the Lakers' win, it restored confidence in Blake. He was basically the only guy not being guarded when he got the ball, because who would think that Blake would get that last shot? 

    So congrats to Steve Blake for making it in a very clutch situation and being a big part of the win in Game 4.