2012 NBA Playoffs: Why Kobe Bryant Will Lead L.A. Lakers Past Nuggets in Game 7

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMay 11, 2012

DENVER, CO - MAY 10:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court during halftime against the Denver Nuggets in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 10, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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How absurdly hilarious is it for some people to write off Kobe Bryant and his legendary late-game presence for a pivotal Game 7 at home against nothing more than a decent Denver Nuggets squad?

Bryant is the face of the post-MJ era of basketball. He's won five NBA titles. He's the fifth-highest scorer all-time in NBA history. He had played in more playoff games than the entire Denver Nuggets team combined when this series started. 

Some may say that Bryant's supporting cast isn't nearly as strong as it has been for each of his five title runs. But when it comes down to it, no team can match the duo of seven-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. 

The return of Metta World Peace is also a strength that the Lakers have on their side, as Bryant has certainly missed the intensity and consistency from his embattled teammate. 

"He's the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with that sense of urgency and no fear," Bryant said. "I'm looking forward to having that by my side again."- via Rotoworld

Kobe might not come out and say it, but he needs more from his teammates than he received in their Game 6 massacre. Gasol seemed uninterested and was dominated by unlikely opponents JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. Trade deadline addition point guard Ramon Sessions had trouble delivering assist-worthy passes and running the offense.

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Despite battling a stomach flu just before Game 6, Bryant was able to play and notch a team-high 31 points on just 13-for-23 shooting (okay, 23 isn't much for Kobe). More important than affecting him, Bryant needs World Peace to motivate the rest of the team to play inspired basketball and close out the Nuggets.

Los Angeles is 12-3 in closeout games since Gasol joined the roster in 2008, and two of those three losses were just suffered this week. 

The Nuggets have battled well with their backs against the wall and played an amazing Game 6, but the Lakers should've closed this out by now. The 'Bigs' (Bynum and Gasol) need to get going and take shots to remove some of the load off of Bryant's shoulders.

But if this one is close down the stretch, expect the Lakers to pull it out. The Nuggets don't have that elite, pure scorer to go to down the stretch like the Lakers have in Bryant. I'll take the Black Mamba with a 25-footer before I trust Ty Lawson to drive the lane.