The Lakers never dreamed it, but now they must live it, a worst-case scenario, a last-ditch situation, one game to save this misguided season against a Denver Nuggets team that should already be starting its summer.
The Lakers made the least of their second chance to close out this first-round playoff series Thursday night, dominated for a second consecutive game by the Nuggets, this beating a serious one, a 113-96 loss that was even worse than it sounded.
"There is no way I thought what happened tonight was going to happen,'' said Nuggets Coach George Karl.
Who did? Who could? A screaming, towel-waving crowd at Pepsi Center began chanting, ''Beat L.A.'' moments after the national anthem and the Lakers never offered any argument. The Nuggets began the game on a 13-0 run, the Lakers missing their nine shots in a row to start, and it never got any prettier. Kobe Bryant showed up with stomach flu yet he was the only one who didn't play ashen, queasy basketball.