Game 5 Nuggets Vs Lakers Preview: And then there was one ... (8:30pm MT)

Gallo and the Manimal will once again try to contain the great Kobe Bryant on Tuesday night.
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Only 8 teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 playoff series deficit to win a series. And while it's doubtful that the Nuggets will be team number 9, right now I'd happily settle for a Game 6 on Thursday night in Denver.

After losing Game 4 to the Los Angeles Lakers in heartbreaking fashion 92-88, a clearly exasperated George Karl took to the Pepsi Center podium and somberly said: "Losing always gets old. Losing is no fun."

Indeed it's not.

In all likelihood, Karl will have to stomach one more painful loss on Tuesday night as the Lakers get the opportunity to close out the upstart Nuggets at the Staples Center ... and likely won't blow said opportunity. The Lakers know the Oklahoma City are resting and waiting for them, and they have the veterans on-board who know better than to squander 3-1 playoff series leads. (Although, interestingly, Laker superstar Kobe Bryant was on the last NBA team to blow a 3-1 series lead when in 2006 his Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns, but the Suns had home court advantage in the series and were favored to win it.)

And thus, the Nuggets must play with a nothing-to-lose mentality if they're to push this series to a Game 6. They've already been left for dead by anyone who follows the NBA, so they may as well play a free-for-all style one more time and hope to lure the Lakers into a track meet.

Akin to last year's first round series loss to the Thunder, you have to give the Nuggets credit for being in every game except one. Tossing out the Lakers' 103-88 blowout victory in Game 1 and the Nuggets' 99-84 blowout victory in Game 3, a mere 8 points separates these two teams between Games 2 and 4 combined. But I suppose this is why the Lakers won most of their close games during the regular season while the Nuggets floundered in many of theirs. Execution down the stretch hasn't been the Nuggets strong suit all season long.

Moreover, star players - aging or not - tend to best young upstarts in the NBA. Even if they're passing their way to victory, as Bryant did on Sunday night.

I won't bore you with another "how to beat the Lakers" rant. By now, we know what the Nuggets need to do: play fast, play the youngsters ample minutes, bait Kobe into lots of bad shots, contain Andrew Bynum, yada yada yada.

Not easily said nor easily done.

I don't know about you, but I'm out of "adjustments" that the Nuggets are supposed to make entering Game 5. Make more jump shots? Score more than 90 points? All I know is that if the Nuggets score less than 100 they're not winning any game, in the regular season or in the post-season (and, yes, I know they had just 99 in Game 3 ... close enough).

Sadly, in this series against the Lakers the Nuggets' regular season production has plummeted. For a team that was first in points scored (104.1) they're now averaging 93.8 in the playoffs. A 10 point differential! In the regular season, the Nuggets dished out a league-high 24.0 assists per game. In the playoffs? A mere 19.5 and appalling low 17 in Game 4. And the Nuggets' NBA second-best 47.6% field goal shooting has dropped to a ghastly 41.1% in the post-season. (Even the Nuggets' dreadful regular season three-point shooting has dropped from 33.2% to 25.0%.)

Simply put, Karl and the Nuggets have been flummoxed by the Lakers and have essentially run out of time to reverse their fortunes.

At a minimum, I don't want the Nuggets to get embarrassed on Tuesday night. Last year, when faced with a closeout Game 5 against the Thunder, the Nuggets put up a mighty fight - ultimately losing 100-97 after entering the fourth quarter with the lead. That tough loss bought the Nuggets some extra confidence entering the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. A blowout Tuesday could have much worse ramifications going forward.

Win or lose, here's hoping the young Nuggets give us another gutty performance in Game 5 and remind us why we loved rooting for this team all season long.

And is it too much to ask for a Game 6 on Thursday night?

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REMINDER: Our next STIFFS NIGHT OUT is taking place on Tuesday night at Jake's Food & Spirits, located at 3800 Walnut Street. We will watch Game 5 on Jake's 10 HDTVs and Jake's will be serving 2-for-1 drink specials all night. Also, Nate will be hosting his Colorado Sports Guys podcast live from Jake's!
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