"Game 5 is Game 7"
(While I'm at it, if I were Karl I'd bring Dahntay Jones back into the game in the second quarter to avoid an Anthony Carter/Chauncey Billups back court, I'd work the refs if they try to whistle the Nuggets out of being aggressive, I'd call timeouts when it's clear my team is chucking too many threes and is losing their composure, and so on, but I digress...)
In order for the Nuggets to survive what's sure to be an offensive onslaught from Kobe Bryant and (attempted) big time performances from the Lakers "big" men after the national media has labeled them soft, the Nuggets must treat Game 5 like a back-against-the-wall, season-ends-tomorrow Game 7. I don't care if our Nuggets end up more bruised, banged up and exhausted than they've ever been before, but a gutty Game 5 win redelivers the home court advantage that the Nuggets need to close out the series. The Nuggets players might be miserable come Thursday morning, but they'll feel a hell of a lot better if Friday is a close out game rather than another grueling battle just to win a trip back to Los Angeles.
My biggest concern - and I'm sure the Nuggets biggest concern, as well - is Kobe. The over/under on Kobe versus the Nuggets is 34 points. In the Nuggets two wins, Kobe has averaged 33 points. In the Nuggets two losses, Kobe's average is 40.5. After what transpired in Denver and all the (foolish) talk about Dantay Jones harassing, haggling and (unfortunately) tripping Kobe, Bryant will be hell bent on having a big night. Throw in that he's getting nothing from his teammates and knows his championship window is closing, and I see Kobe gunning for 50. That doesn't mean he'll get 50 nor does it mean if he gets 50 the Nuggets will automatically lose - of the 25 times Kobe has gone for 50 in his career, he's lost eight - but it certainly will make the Nuggets cause more difficult.
Ending up in a Game 7 at Staples Center leaves too many things to chance to the detriment of the Nuggets: an epic night from Kobe, a return of the Nuggets' knuckle-itis, a few bad calls from the refs, another errant inbounds play drawn up by Karl, a lack of Game 7 experience, and so forth. If the Nuggets are to avoid such a predicament, they need to get their Game 7 experience over with during Game 5, and walk away with the biggest win to date in franchise history.
On a side note, I'm confident that the Nuggets can take Game 5 for one simple reason: I won't be there. Dating back to 2003 - when I watched Kobe drop 50 points on Junior Harrington and Vincent Yarbrough in 31 minutes of playing time - and including last year's playoff debacle and Game 1 of this year's Western Conference Finals, in about eight or so tries I've never witnessed a Nuggets victory at Staples Center. Instead, I'll be watching the game at an undisclosed location with a few friends here in Denver whom I've been watching Nuggets games with my entire life. And we'll be screaming at the TV for three hours straight to keep my streak alive of not hearing a word that Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Breen or Mark Jackson have said all series. From what Denver Stiffs readers have told me, I'm not missing anything from the broadcasters.
And just in case you're the only Nuggets fan in the world who needs to get pumped up for Game 5, I encourage you to check out this Game 5 video produced and submitted by longtime Denver Stiffs reader "Bektur".
More than ever...