Denver could be on the verge of bowing to the Lakers yet again as the Nuggets prepare to visit Staples Center for Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinals set with Los Angeles.
History was against George Karl's club before this series even started. Denver and the Lakers had met in the playoffs on five different occasions previously (1979, '85, '87, 2008, '09) with the Lakers advancing each time, most recently defeating the Nuggets 4-2 in the '09 Western Conference finals en route to the franchise's last NBA title.
Meanwhile, after the Lakers took the first two games of the set, the Nuggets had to deal with the fact that LA was a gaudy 42-1 in its storied history when taking that kind of lead in a best-of-seven series.
Denver managed to bounce back in Game 3 at the Pepsi Center but then came up just short on Sunday when Kobe Bryant gave up the ball and Ramon Sessions hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 48.1 seconds to play to help the Lakers earn a hard-fought 92-88 win over the Nuggets in a closely contested Game 4.
"It's as exciting to see Kobe make a pass at the right time and trust his guys," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "In the past a lot, it's been Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, but we've gone to Pau [Gasol} a lot, to Sessions. The guys have seen me trust second-unit guys down the stretch."
Bryant posted 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Andrew Bynum added 19 points and seven boards while Gasol donated 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who now hold a 3-1 advantage in the series.
Sessions and Jordan Hill each had 12 points for LA, while Steve Blake posted 10 points.
"I have to give credit to a lot of our guys for stepping up at different times," said Brown. "Sessions and Blake hit two huge threes late in the game that gave us some separation."
Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points and pulled down six rebounds while Andre Miller added 15 points and seven boards off the bench for the Nuggets, who also got 11 points and six assists from Ty Lawson.
"It was a physical game out there tonight," said Karl. "But we're just going to keep playing our game the way we have to play it."
On paper the Nuggets are much deeper than the Lakers but Denver has been unable to dictate the tempo against a lengthy, disciplined LA club. But, Karl thinks there is still time.
"It's not over, and it's a series that we can win Game 5," the Denver mentor said. "We should have won [Game 4] in a lot of ways. We gave a lot of good effort and had a lot of good results."
Game 6 of the best-of-seven series, if necessary, will take place on Thursday back in Denver.