Video Credit: NBA

Recap: Lakers vs Nuggets – Western Conference Finals – Game 5

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(#1) Los Angeles Lakers (12-3) |  (#3) Denver Nuggets (9-10)

 

Long-time Los Angeles sports reporter Ted Sobel once asked the late Kobe Bryant a question that will forever be remembered as another iconic answer from Kobe and became this Lakers team battle cry.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: YouTube

Sobel asked Kobe after the Lakers went up 2-0 against the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals why he didn’t’ look happy? “What’s there to be happy about?” Bryant said with a monotone voice. “Job’s not finished. Job finished? I don’t think so.”

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and company knew that coming into Game 5. They had to have the “Mamba Mentality” for four quarters against the Nuggets. The game plan had to be simple; play strong defense and get to barbequing some chicken against Denver.

 

 

Old school Lakers fans know what the saying means when they hear “the Lakers need to be making barbeque chicken.” It is as synonymous with Lakers basketball as the late, great Chick Hearn’s saying when the Lakers are about to defeat an opponent.

 

Here is a brief education for those that don’t know what it means, or think it’s just something Shaquille O’Neal says on the TNT broadcast or in the NBA 2k video game series.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: Clutch Points

The Lakers’ history of big men is unrivaled by any NBA team. It started with George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, Pau Gasol, and now, Anthony Davis. Each big man has had their own flavor. Mikan’s taste was a dry rub, while Wilt was lemon pepper. Kareem was teriyaki, Shaq was mango habanero, and Gasol was medium hot.

When the Lakers are playing at their best, historically, their big men are cooking in the paint, hence barbequing chicken. While AD is much different than Shaq, Cap, Wilt, or Mikan, just like the four other Lakers Hall of Famers, when he gets going early in the post, he tends to have a big game, and in these playoffs, that is an excellent sign for the Lakers. That makes Davis’ game the honey sriracha flavor.

 

On Saturday night the Lakers looked to close out the Denver Nuggets and advance to their first NBA Finals in ten years. As everyone knows by now, the Nuggets have twice been down 3-1 in a best of seven series, only to come back and win the series, and that’s all this postseason. LeBron James, Davis and the Lakers knew that they couldn’t afford to mess around and keep this resilient Nuggets in the bubble any longer than they should be.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: Denver Stiffs

The Lakers came out a bit sluggish, and the Nuggets did the opposite, but both teams struggled to get buckets early on. Once the teams settled in midway through the first quarter, the Lakers took it to Denver, and by doing so, causing Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap to get into early foul trouble. LeBron took over and was on his way to his 27th triple-double in the postseason, just three behind Magic Johnson for the all-time lead.

Davis had an excellent game, finishing with 27 points, five rebounds, and a huge 4th quarter block on Michael Porter Jr. Alex Caruso also had a scrappy game, but his energy in the first half gave the Lakers a boost and the Nuggets fits.

 

But tonight the King had his iconic Lakers moment, one that even Kobe Bryant would be proud of.

 

James once again had a triple-double and dominated the Nuggets. But while the King’s line on Saturday night was impressive (38/16/10), what he did in the closing minutes of the game was arguably one of the finest moments of his career. It was unarguably his finest as a member of the Lakers.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: Silver Screen and Roll

Unlike the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, James and the Lakers smelled blood with about 7:00 minutes left in the game and took over. The final 2:30 minutes left in the game, James scored the Lakers final 8 points, including a clutch three-pointer that forced the Nuggets to call their final timeout of the 2020 season.

James had his “Mamba Moment.” He decided to take the game over and put the Lakers on his broad shoulders, just as Bryant used to do with his Lakers teams. Lakers fans saw the reason why Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka did everything they could to sign James. He has brought the Purple and Gold back to the NBA Finals and has them in a position to win their seventeenth title, tying the NBA record.

James also became the first player in NBA history to score 38 points, have over 15 rebounds and have ten assists in a playoff game.

 

But Kobe Bryant’s finger prints were all over this one.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: USA Today

The lone Lakers player on this roster to play with Kobe is Dwight Howard. Howard played this game with a greater purpose. He wore a Kobe jersey to the arena and did all the things that he was expected to do. He played the brand of basketball that Kobe expected him to play the first time he was traded to the Lakers. He frustrated Jokic all game and caused Nuggets players to adjust shots. Howard was a force inside. This was the best he has played all season.

It seemed from the jump the Lakers played with a greater purpose on Saturday. They played with a mentality that has fueled them since January 26th. Their play, with that focus and drive, was reminiscent of Kobe Bryant and the way he played the game. He was friends with many of the current team, and they have adopted the “Mamba Mentality”.

The Lakers now await the winner of the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics series, who play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday. The rest will help Davis’ sprained ankle, which he rolled again late in the 4th quarter on Saturday. But if you ask any of the Lakers if they are satisfied with winning the West, they’re all going to say the same thing, “Job’s not finished. Job finished? I don’t think so.” just as Kobe did.

 

On Saturday night the Lakers served up some barbeque chicken to the Nuggets. I could just hear Chick Hearn telling Kobe “Well Kobe, this series in the refrigerator. The door is closed, the lights are out, the butter’s getting hard, the eggs are cooling, and the Jell-O’s jigglin’!

 

 

Western Conference Finals

  • Game 1Lakers 126 – Nuggets 114
  • Game 2Lakers 105 – Nuggets 103
  • Game 3Nuggets 114 –Lakers 104
  • Game 4Lakers 114 – Nuggets 108
  • Game 5 – Lakers 117 – Nuggets 107

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Joe Arrigo

Twitter: JoeArrigo

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