No denying it: After the Nuggets lost game four of their playoffs series against the Lakers at home on Sunday night, I thought they were doomed to another 4-1 first-round exit -- and I wasn't the only one. But stunningly, Denver managed to beat L.A. 102-99 in what was expected to be a close-out contest last night. Just as shocking: The hero was frequent comedy machine JaVale McGee.
As JaVale goes, so go the Nuggets? Seems absurd, but in this series, that's been the case. In Friday's game three, Denver's sole previous series victory, McGee played absolutely out of his mind (in a good way), notching sixteen points and fifteen rebounds while preventing Andrew Bynum from looking like a giant among dwarfs. It was a memorable performance, and not only because it brought national attention to the pitiless gaze of his fierce mom, Pamela, as seen in this clip:
Given McGee's previous play with the Nuggets since coming to the squad in the Nene trade, this monstrous performance seemed like an anomaly -- one unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, and certainly not in the playoffs. In game five, though, McGee not only met this standard, but exceeded it, racking up 21 points on nine of twelve shooting (including at least one dunk for the ages), not to mention fourteen boards. In the end, he actually overshadowed Bynum -- something pretty much no one other than Mama Pamela saw coming.
Not that McGee carried the load alone, Once again, Ty Lawson underwhelmed, managing just nine points. However, Arron Afflalo finally got untracked, draining nineteen point's worth, and Andre Miller played like a wily veteran, putting up 24 and taking care of the ball; he had just one turnover. And once again, Kenneth Faried exploded with energy. In the first quarter, particularly, he acted as if he was hooked to a car battery by jumper cables.
The Nuggets needed every last bit of this juice, because Kobe Bryant went wild in the second half, nearly eviscerating Denver's substantial lead by making shots (including one against Danilo Gallinari) that had absolutely no business going in. The Lakers had a chance to win game five in the same way they earned a "W" in game four, but this time around, the late threes didn't fall.
The result is a best-case scenario for the Nuggets -- a return home for game six, with redemption on the menu. Winning this series is still unlikely, but the experience gained by the squad is already invaluable, especially for McGee, who last night turned the laughs of detractors into slackened jaws.
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