LOS ANGELES – George Karl’s first order of business when he walked into the Denver Nuggets' locker room Tuesday was to find video coordinator Nate Anderson.
“You put that quote at the end of the film?” the Nuggets coach asked Anderson.
Yes, Anderson had done his work, attaching the inflammatory words of Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum at the end of the Nuggets' pregame film.
"Closeout games are actually kind of easy," Bynum had said a day earlier. "Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning."
That was all the motivation the Nuggets needed. They took control of Game 5, weathering Kobe Bryant's 43 points and a late rally to beat the Lakers 102-99 and extend their season another couple days. The Lakers lead the first-round series 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday.
"A lot of players are arrogant, man," Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said. "That was an arrogant statement. That definitely did give us fuel and motivation to win this game. We don’t like people saying stuff about us. We all looked at each and other and were like, 'All right, let's go.' "
Bynum's words were the latest of several gaffes he's committed this season, a string of head-scratching moments that have sometimes overshadowed his stellar play. Lakers coach Mike Brown benched Bynum in a game earlier this season for shooting 3-pointers. Bynum also was fined for blowing off a meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak that had been arranged to discuss Bynum's immature behavior. Recently, Bynum admitted he wasn't ready to play during the Lakers’ Game 3 loss to the Nuggets because he had arrived late to the arena.
Despite the Lakers' loss, Bynum didn't regret his statement.
"We didn’t get off to a good start and we lost, so I guess the same holds true," he said.
By the time they arrived for Tuesday morning's shootaround, the Nuggets were well aware of Bynum's comments. Veteran guard Andre Miller, who is usually quiet, delivered an impassioned speech before the team took the court.
"We try not to put what people say into our head or into our heart," Nuggets rookie forward Kenneth Faried said. "But we just looked at it, Coach told us about it and we came out and tried to prove them wrong."
Said Karl: "It’s the hardest thing in the world to win that fourth game. I don’t know care who you are playing."
The Nuggets led by as many as 15 points in the final quarter before weathering Bryant's late flurry. Bryant blamed the loss on the Lakers' lack of energy, but also hopes Bynum learned from his words.
"Did it pump them up?" Bryant said. "Yeah, probably. Were they going to come out and play with that type of energy anyway? Probably. We didn’t execute. They obviously played harder than we did.
"It was a lesson to learn. You never want to give someone bulletin-board material to begin with. But if you’re going to be a champion, you’re going to have to play through that type of stuff."
Nuggets center JaVale McGee thoroughly outplayed Bynum while totaling 21 points and 14 rebounds. He showcased his athleticism with a series of highlight-worthy dunks. Since the Nuggets acquired him in a deal that sent Nene to the Washington Wizards, McGee has shown flashes of his enormous potential.
"Usually I am nowhere near the playoffs," McGee said. "My last game is usually like in the regular season in April. I definitely didn’t want tonight to be my last game."
Said Bryant: “He’s blossoming in this series.”
The big question now facing the Lakers: Will Bynum use Game 6 as an opportunity to clean up the mess he's created?
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