Gasol shines as Lakers rout NuggetsApr 20, 2008 - 11:38 PM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Pau Gasol made quite an impression in his playoff debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gasol recorded postseason career highs of 36 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists as the Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets, 128-114, in Game One of their Western Conference first-round series on Sunday.
"It feels amazing," Gasol said. "I definitely had a blast out there. It was a great atmosphere, and the fans were outstanding as always. I'm extremely happy with the win and I hope there are many more to come."
Kobe Bryant scored 32 points for the Lakers, who are attempting to win their first playoff series since 2004, when Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led them to the NBA Finals.
Both teams will have two days to rest before Wednesday's Game Two in the best-of-seven series.
"It's behind us," Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Tomorrow is a new day and Wednesday is another new day. We are going to come here and leave it all on the court."
Sunday's performance was precisely what the Lakers were hoping to receive from Gasol when they acquired him in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies on February 1.
Winless in 12 postseason games with the Grizzlies, the 7-foot center shot 14-of-20 from the floor in this one, nailing all eight of his free throws and recording three blocks. He got help from Bryant, who scored 18 points in the fourth.
"I have been the focal point on every team that I have been on the last eight years, that's just the way it's been, and I've been comfortable with that," Gasol said. "I have been successful sometimes and sometimes I haven't been successful, but right now I'm in a good position and I'm enjoying it.
"Every guy on our team is doing an amazing job out there, and I'm just one of them."
The top-seeded Lakers outscored the Nuggets, 39-22, in the decisive third quarter to take a 19-point lead - their largest of the game - heading into the final period.
Denver stormed out to a 13-4 run in the fourth to cut its deficit to 101-91 on J.R. Smith's 3-pointer. Denver got as close as nine points later in the quarter, before a key sequence sealed its fate.
Allen Iverson was ejected after picking up two technical fouls with 2:10 remaining and Bryant, who was fouled while shooting, converted all four free throws to make it 122-107.
"Obviously, I thought I got fouled on a hand-check (a play earlier), and I felt (the referee) was right there on that play and he didn't make the call," Iverson said. "I was frustrated, but I deserved to be thrown out."
All of Bryant's points came during a six-minute stretch in which he scored 18 of his team's 21 points, with Sasha Vujacic's 3-pointer serving as the lone basket.
"We played good enough to win the game, but I don't think we are completely pleased with the way we played," Bryant said. "There are a lot of positive things to take away from it, and I think (fending the Nuggets off) was one of them."
The Nuggets, who have been eliminated in the first round the past four seasons, were led by Anthony and Iverson, who each finished with 30 points.
If history is any indication, the Lakers have put themselves in good shape. They are 50-7 all-time in a seven-game series when winning the first contest.
"It's important," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of getting Game One. "Our job remains to win the games at home and establish some momentum in this series and put them in a situation of going home having to win."
LA LAKERS 128 FINAL
Apr 20 5:54 PM
LA LAKERS 97 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 20 5:09 PM
LA LAKERS 58 HALFTIME
Apr 20 4:15 PM
LA LAKERS 26 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 20 3:39 PM
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