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Bet on the NBAIn the waning years of his NBA career, Kobe Bryant has been on a mission to chase some of his former peers and the legends of basketball history. He passed Shaq's four rings by winning a fifth in 2010, and has his sights set on his sixth championship to equal his idol Michael Jordan. It did not happen last year, as the Lakers were swept out of the Western Conference playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, and this year may be doubtful as the Nuggets took Los Angeles to seven games in the first round.

But if Kobe and the Lakers are to go much further in the playoffs this year, they will need some help from their big men. Having two seven footers on the floor is Los Angeles' primary advantage over almost every other team in the league, but Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have an infuriating tendency to come up short in big games. Gasol put up some poor performances in this round, and it was clear that Bynum gave up on playing defense following offensive possessions where his teammates gave up on giving the ball to him.

The Nuggets, for their part, did a remarkable job coming back from being down 2-0 after the first games at the Staples Center and eventually pushing the series to a deciding Game 7. After the first game, it looked as if Denver had no answer for Bynum who seemed to block every single shot within the vicinity of the basket. Give head coach George Karl credit for making adjustments to get his team around the Lakers' big men, but also take away some credit from Lakers coach Mike Brown for underutilizing Bynum on offense.

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The Lakers now move on to face the OKC Thunder in the conference semifinals. OKC has had nearly 10 days off since sweeping the defending champion Mavericks out of the playoffs. Expect them to come out with some rust, but look forward to a Ron Artest/Metta World Peace and James Harden rematch for the next four games and more.


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