Temple of broom: Lakers sweep Nuggets out of playoffs
AP Sports Writer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” With three rings to his credit, getting out of the first round is not that big of deal to Kobe Bryant.
Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t mind finding out what that feels like.
Pau Gasol kept the Los Angeles Lakers in the game early until Bryant caught fire late as the Los Angeles Lakers completed a first-round sweep of Denver with a 107-101 win Monday night.
For Anthony and the Nuggets, it’s the fifth straight time their season has ended with a first-round loss.
“It’s disappointing,” said Anthony, who scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds before fouling out with 1:19 remaining. “I don’t know what else to say about that. All you’ve got to do is try to come back next year and try to start all over again.”
The Lakers will meet the winner of the Utah-Houston series, which the Jazz lead 3-1, in the Western Conference semifinals.
Early on, it was the Gasol Show as he scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half. Bryant picked it up in the fourth quarter, erupting for 14 of his 31 points over the final 5 1/2 minutes.
“He is unbelievable,” Luke Walton said. “It’s always so comforting knowing you have the best closer in basketball. They were making huge plays down the stretch, but Kobe came right back to do whatever it took.”
Bryant put the finishing touches on the win when he drove through traffic and hit a tough bank shot with 40.7 seconds left. He then glided toward the Lakers bench with his arms spread out during the ensuing timeout.
He’s definitely the Lakers’ Superman.
“That’s what Kobe does,” Vladimir Radmanovic said. “He’s done this his whole career. He’s probably the best scorer in the league.”
They’ll receive no arguments from Denver, who got torched by Bryant all series. He also dropped 49 on the Nuggets in Game 2.
“He takes tough shots, he makes tough shots,” said Kenyon Martin, who drew the assignment of guarding Bryant. “The only thing I can do is try to make it as tough as possible. We came up short. It’s frustrating.”
With the loss, the Nuggets became the first 50-win team to be swept in the first round since Memphis in 2004.
That wasn’t a fact the Nuggets wanted to hear.
“Anytime you lose four in a row and get swept, you always say we could’ve done better,” Anthony said. “I take my hat off for how we came back out and responded.”
Especially considering the verbal lashing Anthony gave his team following Game 3 when he accused his team of quitting.
“We gave a great effort out there tonight,” Anthony said. “The results didn’t end up the way we wanted it to end up. But we left it out there on the court.”
The Nuggets played more inspired basketball in Game 4, especially after falling behind by as many as 13 in the first half. They worked their way back into the game and took a brief lead late in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Bryant hit a 21-foot turnaround jumper with the clock shot winding down and Martin’s hand in his face. His shot gave the Lakers a 97-96 lead with 3:10 remaining. They would never trail again.
“Good offense always outdoes good defense,” Anthony said. “I thought we did a good job on Kobe. He just exploded at the end of the game, something he always does.”
Lamar Odom contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds, his second double-double of the series, while Radmanovic had 12.
“What made it (the sweep) possible was our confidence,” Odom said. “We have confidence in our abilities. We are a confident team.”
The Nuggets are a team searching for answers to their postseason woes. Allen Iverson doesn’t think the blame lies with coaches as much as the players.
“It’s us,” said Iverson, who finished with 22 points. “The coaches aren’t out there on the basketball court playing. We’re the guys out there playing. We’re the ones getting paid all the money to go out there and perform night in and night out. We have to hold ourselves accountable.”
Notes: Nuggets G J.R. Smith came off the bench to score 26 points, including 9-of-9 at the free throw line. … The Lakers went 7-0 against Denver this season. … L.A. recorded its 31st sweep in the NBA playoffs, and first since taking four straight against the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA finals.
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