NBA Playoffs 2012: Players Who Must Shine for Lakers to Finish off Nuggets

The Los Angeles Lakers were unable to close out the Denver Nuggets in their previous two attempts, which means the pressure will be on as they get one final chance at home in Game 7. Another loss would cap off an epic collapse.

Let's take a look at three players who must step up in the deciding game for the Lakers to advance. After losing two straight games, there will be plenty of tension inside Staples Center, so getting off to a quick start will be key.


Andrew Bynum

Bynum hasn't played poorly in the series, but you get the sense he would be dominating if he started giving full effort on every possession. That's the type of performance the Lakers are going to need from him in Game 7.

Since they have less talent in the post, the Nuggets have tried to counteract Bynum and Pau Gasol by playing physical, and it's worked for the most part. So the area where Los Angeles was supposed to have a significant advantage has been neutralized, making it less of a surprise the series will go the distance.

Head coach Mike Brown, who hasn't always been pleased with Bynum's play this season, will be looking for a more comprehensive effort from his talented center on Saturday night.


Kobe Bryant

The day off should help Bryant recover from the illness that slowed him down leading up to Game 6. He's the ultimate competitor and a minor stomach bug was never going to keep him off the court, so he should be back to normal in time for tipoff.

Just like so many times in the past, it will be up to Bryant to carry the Lakers across the finish line. No matter how well his teammates are playing, it's always going to come down to his play in key moments that will make or break the Lakers' chances. More often than not he has come through big.

Arron Afflalo is a better defender than Bryant's numbers would make him seem, so it will b...

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