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News » Kobe, Lakers punch ticket back to NBA Finals


Kobe, Lakers punch ticket back to NBA Finals


Kobe, Lakers punch ticket back to NBA Finals
DENVER (AP) - One-half of the Kobe-LeBron dream matchup is set.

Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA finals for the second straight year and record 30th time overall.

He scored 11 points in a decisive 21-7 run that gave the Lakers a 53-40 halftime lead, took the buzz out of the Pepsi Center and the air out of the Nuggets.

"We had the effort and the execution to match," Bryant said. "It took us a while to really get a feel for the team, just how to take advantage of the defense. We saw something how they were playing us and we executed extremely well."

Bryant started his run with two free throws, then hit a jumper over Smith. After Ariza's 3-pointer, Bryant made baskets over Anthony from the left and right corners on the next two possessions, then capped the run with a dagger - a 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left following Gasol's offensive rebound.

The Nuggets trimmed their deficit to 79-67 but the Lakers replied with a 9-0 run to restore their stranglehold. Bryant scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer that made it 101-82.

"He had a great five minutes at the end of the game that no one in basketball could have covered him," Nuggets coach George Karl lamented.

Karl likes the Lakers in the finals no matter if it's Kobe-LeBron or Kobe-Superman.

"I saw little cracks in the Lakers and somehow we've cemented those cracks back up, and I think they're the best team right now in the NBA," he said.

The Nuggets thought they had the Lakers right where they wanted them after stealing Game 2 in Los Angeles, but they quickly gave the homecourt edge back on Martin's botched inbounds in Game 3 that cost them their first loss at the Pepsi Center since March 9.

After winning 16 straight games at home, the Nuggets lost two of three there in their first trip to the conference finals in 24 years.

Chauncey Billups, whose acquisition from Detroit for Allen Iverson in early November, transformed the Nuggets from afterthoughts to contenders, said, "I'll never forget this year. But this is not as far as I want to go."

Jackson thinks these Nuggets, with their top five scorers returning next season, have arrived as an elite team.

"They thrashed a lot of opponents in the Western Conference playoffs," Jackson said. "And their physicality and athleticism and their scoring ability is remarkable."

Bryant concurred, suggesting the Nuggets helped the Lakers play to their potential.

"Denver is a great team, very skilled at all positions," he said. "Strong inside. Strong on the perimeter. Huge problem for us. And because of that, we had to elevate our level as a unit. And if we didn't do that, we'd be going home early."

Notes: Nene broke his left forearm in the game and will wear a splint for 3-4 weeks. ... Anthony turned 25 Friday: "It was a terrible birthday present," he said. "But I can get used to playing on my birthday."


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 30, 2009

 

 
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