Based on their play and level of competitiveness in Game 6, it was hard to tell who was the sickest: Kobe Bryant or his lifeless teammates.
The Denver Nuggets ran the Los Angeles Lakers off the floor last night in humiliating fashion, forcing a decisive Game 7 in the process. Afterwards, Kobe Bryant (who fought off a nasty illness to score 31 points) openly criticized the two seven footers on his team who were supposed to have made the Nuggets old news by now.
An enraged Kobe also guaranteed that he’ll stay in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol’s ears leading up to tomorrow night’s series-deciding showdown.
Already facing pressure to step up their play as the Lakers’ advantage of size and inside play goes to waste, Gasol and Bynum were moved even more into the crosshairs by Mike Brown and Kobe Bryant, both clearly frustrated by Gasol managing three points on one-of-10 shooting with three rebounds and by Bynum getting 11 points on four-of-11 shooting. Bynum did have a game-high 16 rebounds, but his series has become a run of nights without focus. “We’re going to need more out our two bigs,” Brown said. “They’re our second- and third-best players. We’re going to need a lot more out of those guys in order to win the series. But not just scoring wise. Defensively. Defensively to follow the game-plan discipline and do it with some effort and some energy and really just lay it out on the line.”
Bryant followed soon after. “Of course I agree with that,” he said of Brown’s critique. “I talked with Pau a little bit after the game and I’ll speak with Andrew as well. It’s one of those things where psychologically you have to put yourself in a predicament, in a position, where you have no other option but to perform. You have to emotionally put your back to the wall and kind of trick yourself, so to speak, to feel that there’s no other option but to perform and to battle, when you have that, when you have that mindset, your performance shines through, your talent shines through. It doesn’t matter what the defense does. It doesn’t matter because you’re emotionally at a level that is above that. That is the mindset that they have to put themselves in.”
The Denver Nuggets must now travel to L.A., and try to pull off the seemingly impossible. Can they overcome inexperience and potential jitters on the biggest stage imaginable?
As for the Lakers, the only bit of good news last night, is that Metta World Peace will play in Game 7, and Kobe bitterly noted that he’s the only teammate that he can truly count on to be aggressive every game. It remains to be seen, however, how well Metta can perform given that he’s missed the last seven games due to suspension.