is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home opening playoff
contest against Denver, the Lakers knowing the importance of Game 1
since they’re 33-1 when winning the first one, with some comments drawn
from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Denver: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos
12:00 We tried to cover about everything you need to know about the matchup through my A to Z Preview, the scouting report video featuring assistant coach Chuck Person’s knowledge and a more in depth look at Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum with the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding. But after all that, we now get to watch some basketball and see for ourselves. Here we go, folks…
6:00 A sluggish, sloppy start from both teams had only 14
total points scored (8-6 Lakers) at the first time out, Denver making 3
of 12 shots and the Lakers 3 of 7. The Lakers turned the ball over four
times in the opening stanza, including a miscommunication between
Sessions and starting SF Devin Ebanks, who replaced the suspended Metta
World Peace. Denver was only able to turn those TO’s into two points,
3:10 Kobe ranks third all-time in playoff scoring with 5,280
points coming into this campaign, trailing only guys named Michael
Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, OK players both. He started going to
work halfway through the first, scoring five straight to put L.A. up
12:00 A very strong defensive first quarter from LAL had the
Nuggets scoring only 14 points on 25 percent shooting (6 for 20), with
no fast break points and no three-pointers. Steve Blake was the
offensive story, nailing three triples to push L.A.’s lead to 27-14
after one. However, after Ebanks was blocked at the rim, Denver leaked
out for its first fast break points, from Corey Brewer, not a trend L.A.
wanted to see get started.
8:00 Remember all that positive LAL stuff from the previous
quarter? Well, a 13-4 Nuggets run to start the 2nd was just the
opposite, including leak outs for fast break points and two
three-pointers, Brewer’s including a foul, cutting L.A.’s lead to four.
But since it’s the playoffs, Kobe returned at the 8-minute mark, the
rotation of course shortening, and the Lakers scored the next four
2:55 Maybe the best sign the Lakers had in the first half was
to see how engaged Bynum was on defense. The best example was when he
got switched out on to Ty Lawson – one of the league’s fastest players –
in a pick and roll, moved his feet well and swatted Lawson easily when
the PG thought he was past the 7-footer. It was the fourth block for
Bynum in his 15 minutes, plus a game-high eight boards. He’d taken only
two shots, a two-handed dunk from Sessions and a tip in of Bryant’s
miss, and those hoops plus the fifth Ebanks field goal (he led all
scorers with 12) put the home team back up 43-34.
6:34 The defense remained excellent to start the third, L.A.
getting two more blocks from Bynum, and then a corner three from the
Spaniard — from the same spot he drained two in OT against Dallas — that
helped the Lakers push their lead up to 17 points at 64-47.
Moments later, the lead was pushed to 19 when Kobe scored at the rim,
thanks in part to Bynum’s seventh block, which matched his career
playoff high last accomplished in Game 2 of the 2010 Finals against
Boston. Can’t stress enough how important Bynum’s rim protection and
general D is to LAL’s playoff chances. Moments later, he threw down an
alley-oop dunk off Gasol’s seventh assist.
0:00 L.A.’s lead was 13 after three, adding three points onto
the halftime margin even as Denver trimmed what ballooned to as many as
19 points. Bynum added his eighth block, two short of the NBA playoff
record of 10 (Hakeem Olajuwon, Mark Eaton), alongside 10 points and 12
boards, approaching an ever-so-rare playoff triple-double with swats.
Kobe was up to 17 points and Sessions 14 in an effective backcourt,
while Nuggs starting PG Lawson had only one point, one assist and one
board, to backup Andre Miller’s eight, six and five.
8:24 Leading the way in the fourth was Gasol, who scored four
early points with two boards to push L.A.’s lead to 85-68. Mike Brown
was running Sessions/Gasol pick and roll to good effect, with Matt
Barnes (four steals) creating some havoc on defense.
3:36Mike Brown’s been a better-safe-than-sorry coach in terms
of keeping starters on the floor when L.A. has big leads (even though
they haven’t had a ton this season, opting for close/entertaining
games), and Gasol/Bynum/Kobe were still out there with L.A. leading by
15. That said, none had played major minutes, Kobe at 36, Bynum 35 and
Gasol 33 to that point. Kobe hit two free throws shortly thereafter to
reach 29 points, 12 coming in the fourth quarter, putting the game on
3:02 Meanwhile, Bynum went ahead and made Lakers playoff
history, swatting Mozgov in the paint for his 10th of the game,
surpassing the nine by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also tied Hakeem and
Eaton for the NBA playoff high, and thanks to his 10 points and 13
boards, had the first postseason triple-double for the Lakers since
Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA Finals.
Your final from Game 1: Lakers