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Monday, May 14, 2012

Gasol, World Peace fuel Lakers win


LOS ANGELES — Pau Gasol was consumed by determination, holding off Kenneth Faried with one arm and relentlessly tipping the ball at the hoop with the other in the fourth quarter of Game 7. One, two, three, four — five! — offensive rebounds later, the ball finally surrendered and dropped through the hoop.

News photo
Twin terrors: Lakers forward Pau Gasol celebrates a basket in front of teammate Andrew Bynum on Saturday in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 96-87. AP

A few minutes later, the truth was as undeniable as that 213-cm Spaniard. Although the Nuggets drove them to the brink of playoff collapse, the Los Angeles Lakers still have the tenacity to win on the biggest nights of the postseason.

Even when Kobe Bryant doesn't lead them.

Gasol had 23 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots, Metta World Peace scored 15 points in his return from a seven-game suspension, and the Lakers outlasted Denver for a thrilling 96-87 victory Saturday night to win their first-round series.

Steve Blake scored a playoff career-high 19 points and Bryant had a quiet 17 points and eight assists against regular double-teams.

"We were aggressive," Gasol said. "We attacked the paint better. We pounded the boards as hard as we could, every single time. . . . Our backs against the wall also had something to do with it."

Andrew Bynum had 16 points, a career playoff-high 18 rebounds and six blocked shots for Los Angeles, which must open the second round Monday night in Oklahoma City against the second-seeded Thunder.

Ty Lawson and Al Harrington scored 24 points apiece for the sixth-seeded Nuggets, who committed 19 turnovers and managed just 7-of-27 shooting in the fourth quarter.

"Tomorrow or the next day, when the funk gets out of your body, you're going to be proud of them," Denver coach George Karl said.

World Peace hit four 3-pointers and energized Los Angeles with tough defense in his return. The former Ron Artest missed Los Angeles' regular-season finale and the first six games against Denver for viciously elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year and one of his probable defensive assignments in the next round.

World Peace doesn't plan to seek out Harden to make peace before the opener, saying he rarely talks to even his friends on opposing teams before games.

"I don't shake substitutions' hands," World Peace said.

Although he also launched 11 3-pointers, hitting four, World Peace used that attitude to help shut down Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller, holding them to a combined 2-for-19 shooting.

"He made plays tonight that won't show up in the stat sheet that were absolutely amazing for us defensively. Just his presence alone helped us out, and that's what we missed the first six games. . . . He was monstrous for us tonight."

Celtics 92, 76ers 91

In Boston, Kevin Garnett scored 29 points — his most in the regular- or postseason this year — and added 11 rebounds on Saturday night to give the Celtics a victory over Philadelphia in the opening game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Rajon Rondo had 17 assists, 13 points and 12 rebounds for his eighth career playoff triple-double. He ran the length of the court to receive the inbounds pass and dribble out the final 3.4 seconds of the game.

Game 2 is Monday night in Boston before the series shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.

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