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, T. Mozgov
Denver got three rare buckets from Mozgov to start the game with a
14-11 edge, but Bryant’s first three-pointer tied things up on the next
trip down. Much of the pregame focus was on Bynum, who admitted that he
"wasn’t ready” to play in the first half of Game 4. But his teammates
trusted that he’d come out the right way in Game 4, and he did early,
getting to the rim twice for easy buckets, and later swatting JaVale
McGee in the paint.
4:00 Kobe was taking the early scoring lead, hitting a tough
turnaround jumper off Bynum’s offensive board to match his center’s
seven points, but Denver was scoring too in a 20-all game.
0:36.0 L.A.’s D continued to have trouble stopping the Nuggets
from scoring inside, with Andre Miller repeatedly posting up smaller
guards to score eight of his 10 points to lead all scorers, but Bynum
returned the favor with a pretty spin move to his left that McGee could
do nothing with to get L.A. within two at 28-26 to close the period.
8:10 A strong start to the second from L.A. produced a 35-32 lead
after Barnes split the Nuggets middle for a dunk, capping two Gasol
hoops through traffic. During the ensuing time out, Mike Brown pointed
out that his players "must be strong with the basketball,” because they
were lettin’ ‘em play.
L.A. continued to get scoring from Kobe (nine points after a tough bank
shot off some gorgeous footwork) and Bynum (a short jumper while fading
away), but a clear path foul on Barnes after his turnover got Denver
two FT’s (Miller made one) and the ball, which resulted in a Faried
put-back layup to put Denver up 41-39.
0:00 It was not a strong close to the half for the Lakers, who
conceded a 6-0 run before Sessions scored in transition that helped
Denver take a 51-45 lead into the half. The two players hurting L.A. for
the second straight game were rookie Faried and sub McGee, the former
tipping in misses and generally flying around and the latter clogging
the paint defensively, influencing or blocking many Lakers attempts.
9:30 L.A. started to do what it does when most effective, getting
Bryant and then Bynum touches in the paint, both of which were
converted to cut the lead to two. They had combined for 29 points to
that point, and were building steam.
The lead went back to the Lakers thanks to their controlling tempo in
the first five minutes, which was helped on by two Gasol jumpers and
Bynum free throws as L.A. began to assert its will. However, Denver was
getting a hot shooting Italian as Gallinari sank his eighth bucket in 13
attempts, for 16 points to match Bryant.
3:05 Just when L.A. was starting to really control tempo and
force Denver into tough shots, the Nuggets got a bail-out three as the
shot clock expired, and then an Afflalo layup in transition off a long
miss from Steve Blake. The backup PG did, however, respond with a jumper
on the next trip, tying it up at 63.
11:00 Blake’s three-pointer immediately put the Lakers on top to
start the fourth, and two Gasol jumpers in the following minutes helped
open a three-point lead, actually the biggest of the night. Crunch time
coming for the whole quarter, folks.
5:46 Blake hit his second key shot of the quarter, putting LAL
up 82-78, with the Nuggets focusing so much on Bryant and the bigs.
Kobe was not off to a good start in the fourth, missing his first three
shots plus a turnover. But L.A. would manage to get control, Bynum and
Bryant hitting their first shots of the period to put keep the Lakers
0:18.9 Did we mention Steve Blake? Well, he hit his biggest
shot as a Laker, dropping a corner three that came off Kobe’s
penetration and drawing of a second defender, putting the Lakers up six
and sealing a 92-88 win. Bryant told me after the game on KCAL that he
has full trust in his teammates, and knew Blake could knock down such a
pressure shot, and was thrilled to see him prove it. And, by the way,
Ramon Sessions added a huge shot of his own, breaking an 86-all tie with
a three of his own on the previous possession, thanks to a screen and
dish from Gasol.
With that, LAL took a 3-1 series lead, which they’ll take home to try
and close Denver out on Tuesday evening. We’ll see you there.