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Considering that the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t trail for a single second in home victories in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Denver Nuggets, it seems a foregone conclusion that L.A. will finish this series tonight in Game 5 also at home. And the Lakers are 5.5-point betting favorites on WagerWeb.com.
Any shot the Nuggets had of making this a series ended in Sunday’s 92-88 home loss. Kobe Bryant had 22 points and Andrew Bynum added 19 to help the Lakers overcome a six-point halftime deficit and take a 3-1 series lead. Sixth-man Jordan Hill had 12 points and 11 rebounds, and recently acquired guard Ramon Sessions and reserve point guard Steve Blake each hit crucial 3-pointers in the final minute as the Lakers broke free.
With the game tied at 86, Danilo Gallinari was covering Bryant when a hard screen from Pau Gasol sent the Italian to the floor grabbing his throat. While Gallinari stayed down, Sessions’ 3-pointer from just in front of the Nuggets bench put the Lakers ahead 89-86 with 48 seconds remaining. Gallinari led the Nuggets with 20 points, and Andre Miller had 15. After torching the Lakers for 50 points combined in the previous two games, Ty Lawson was held to 11 points.
Because they are getting killed down low, the Nuggets must get out and run to have any chance. But they scored 14 transition points on 6-for-16 shooting in their Game 4 loss to the Lakers. It was Denver’s fewest transition points in a game during the series. The Nuggets averaged 22 transition points in the first three games and led the NBA during the regular season with 23.7 transition points per game.
The Lakers scored 28 second-chance points in their Game 4 win over the Nuggets. It was the most second-chance points in a playoff game since the Bulls had 31 last season on May 15 against the Heat and the most for the Lakers since 2003. Bynum is posting career playoff highs in points (18.5), rebounds (10.3) and blocks (4.2) this postseason.
Even though the third-seeded Lakers hold a 3-1 series lead over the sixth-seeded Nuggets, L.A. has only outscored Denver by eight total points (383 to 375) through those four games.
Awaiting the winner of the Lakers-Nuggets series is the Oklahoma City Thunder, which swept their series against the Dallas Mavericks over the weekend. If the Lakers can close out the Nuggets on Tuesday, it would ensure them some rest heading into a series against a Thunder team that will likely have at least a full week without a game before the Western Conference semifinals tip off.