Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 2

57510567Read about the Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 2 as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Game 1
Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary, May 19, 2009
Lakers 105, Nuggets 103: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Nuggets: Sonny Weems, Steven Hunter

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Rockets: Billups, Jones, Anthony, Martin and Nene

Why L.A. Needs a Big Bynum
Last season, when the Lakers swept the Nuggets 4-0 in Round 1, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol destroyed the Nuggets with interior passing. A big difference on the block this season, however, is that Nene has taken over for Marcus Camby, and he’s simply a much more physical presence, if without the shot blocking. This is to the disadvantage of Pau Gasol, upon whom Denver effectively sicked Nene with Bynum in foul trouble. In addition to some affective game planning, that allowed Denver to control the paint until the final two minutes, which L.A. can’t allow once again.

Pregame Video Scouting Report
Frank Hamblen joined us to talk about countering Denver’s Game 1 advantage on the low block, defending Carmelo Anthony and the importance of winning the bench battle. The watch, CLICK HERE.

57510856First Quarter
10:14 For the third straight possession, L.A. dumped the ball down low to Bynum. The first time, Gasol was called for three seconds, and the second, Martin was whistled for a non-shooting foul. But the third resulted in a two-handed dunk for L.A. This is the matchup Lakers.com has been looking for.

8:20 After barely touching the ball on offense, Gasol stuck back a Fisher miss to tie the game at six. Eleven of his 13 points in Game 1 came in similar fashion.

6:49 Martin was fronting Bynum, and he was fed with a nice lob pass that resulted in a free throw. A possession later, Jones picked up his fourth foul in less than six minutes as Bryant scored plus the harm … But is that good for L.A.? If I’m Denver, I’d rather have J.R. Smith in there anyway. The real problem could come if Bryant gets Smith in foul trouble as well. Lakers 13, Nuggets 10.

5:22 Two straight nice plays from Gasol, first a swat of an Anthony three and second another tip in. In the process, Billups was T’d up by the league’s best official, Steve Javie.

4:25 Another put-back, this time a dunk, came from Lamar Odom. After Game 1, Odom said these opportunities were available since Denver tried to block so many shots, and he was onto something. That play was followed by an Odom rebound, then an Ariza and-1 that put L.A. up 21-14.

2:30 More solid help defense on Anthony (1-for-6) resulted in a Bryant pull-up at the other end that found L.A. up 25-16 and looking very good doing it.

0:32.0 A very fortunate bounce turned a Lakers turnover into a Linas Kleiza three in the corner, as the ball kicked off Billups when L.A. appeared to have a break out. That shot cut L.A.’s lead to six, but Bryant responded with two free throws after drawing Smith’s second foul, and it was 31-23. Bryant had followed up his 18 fourth quarter points in Game 1 with 14 in this one.

Quick summary: L.A. was much better defensively with rotations, again attacked the offensive glass and shot 52.4 percent to reverse the score of Tuesday’s Game 1.

57510995Second Quarter
11:26 Odom stuck in his own miss after grabbing L.A.’s sixth offensive board, and L.A. was up 10. On the next defensive possession, Ty Nowell pointed out to me that Walton guarded three different players in impressive fashion.

9:41 After Vujacic missed consecutive shots, Brown got a floater to go. Gasol, meanwhile, had corralled his 9th rebound. The only thing keeping Denver in the game was Kleiza’s stroke from the baseline, which produced another three-pointer and saw Phil Jackson take a timeout with his team up 35-26.

8:29 Smith’s third foul, drawn by Walton, sent him to the bench. The possession ultimately resulted in an Odom dunk off a great pass from Farmar that put L.A. up 11. In unrelated news, WWE’s John Cena had one courtside seat for himself, and one for his right bicep (he was leaning to the left).

7:18 Another terrific pass from Farmar produced a layup for Shannon Brown, and L.A. was quickly up 41-27, and rolling.

6:38 Anthony, struggling early with his jumper, twice attacked the rim and twice scored. Makes sense. Then, after a Farmar layup, ‘Melo stroked two straight jumpers for a quick eight points.

5:21 Bryant and Ariza checked back in, and immediately combined for an Ariza dunk that followed a Bynum baseline jumper to put L.A. up 47-35.

3:44 Bynum beat Nene down the floor, received a nice lob pass from Fisher, and dunked plus the harm. He missed the FT, but had still totaled nine points with a board, a steal and a block.

1:11 Almost out of nowhere, Denver went on a 10-0 run, highlighted by back-to-back threes from Kleiza (his third) and Billups, who then drew two straight touch fouls on Fisher to get in the bonus and cut the lead to 53-50.

0:32.8 Back-to-back touch fouls on Fisher and Gasol resulted in four free throws that capped a 12-0 run and made it just a 1-point game.

0:01.0 After an Odom jumper, Billups threw the ball off Bryant’s back on the inbound, caught it and laid it in to give L.A. the same lead it had at halftime of Game 1. Weird, especially after the lead-swap of the first quarters.

In his interview on the way to the locker room, Bryant rightfully blamed L.A.’s defense for relaxing as the half neared its close. The half had been completely dominated by the purple and gold, yet the lead was done, which surely gives the Nuggets a boost heading into the third quarter. At the same time, don’t be surprised to see a newly-focused Lakers team to start the third, because they’ll surely hear it in the locker room from Bryant, Jackson or both.

57511208Third Quarter
11:39 Good start for a team trying to get the momentum back as Bryant picked up a steal and fed Ariza for an open-court layup, though he missed the second of two ensuing free throws, and ‘Melo tied the game with a long jumper over Fisher.

10:21 Gasol and Bynum caught the ball on consecutive possessions way too far away from the hoop, but the third feed found Pau on the block, and resulted in an open three from Ariza thanks to Pau’s skip pass.

7:14 After a great rebound and pull-up three from Fisher put L.A. up four, Billups got all the way to the hoop for a nice layup off glass, and Nene up-faked Bynum for an and-1, but he missed the FT and the score was tied at 64.

6:16 Ariza hammered one home off a baseline drive in full traffic, after hanging in the air for a few seconds. Silly. He went up high again on the next play, but K-Mart grabbed him from behind rather late, knocking Ariza way off balance and resulting in a resounding thud on the floor. After staying down for a few seconds, Ariza got up and walked to the bench as L.A. had called timeout, with two free throws pending.

5:10 L.A.’s spark, thy name is Trevor Ariza. An and-1 finish in transition capped a personal 7-0 run.

3:17 The lead might have been nine as Ariza stripped the ball and fed Fisher in transition, but his layup attempt rimmed out, and Kleiza answered with a deuce. A minute later, Billups canned a three, but Bryant came right back with a baseline hammer dunk on Andersen.

2:02 Weird to see Billups miss another FT, his second of the game, after Anthony missed one. That’s six misses for Denver after 12 in Game 1, and L.A. took advantage with a Gasol dunk (courtesy of Walton’s perfect pass) to take a 79-74 lead.

0:40.0 Anthony got two straight calls that certainly didn’t look like fouls, as confirmed by the ESPN broadcast crew, to hit four free throws and bring Denver within one. The first came at the rim (on Gasol), the second when Bryant tied him up after a defensive board. Still, L.A. held its halftime lead of one point, 81-80 into the fourth.

57512085Fourth Quarter
11:50 Andersen tried to deny Gasol the ball on the wing, and Pau slipped to the hole to draw a foul. Billups made one more FT than Pau to tie the game as Bryant went out for a breather. This will be interesting.

10:44 First two plays with Bryant on the pine went Denver’s way, as Gasol missed a jumper and Kleiza hit another three, though Walton answered by backing Billups down for a deuce. Still, Billups was taking charge, driving past Brown and drawing a foul to get Denver a three-point lead.

9:43 The lead grew two five as Anthony put back a Smith miss … There’s been a clear shift in control of the paint with Bynum on the bench, yet he hadn’t seen the floor after only 4:46 of action in the third quarter.

8:34 Boy did the Lakers need that Bryant three pointer with the game trending Denver’s way in a hurry. Nuggets 91, Lakers 87.

7:42 Shannon Brown, doing his best Fisher impersonation, canned a big time three in the corner after Denver threw three bodies at Bryant. Before the game, we were sitting down at the Lakers bench watching Brown drain corner triple after corner triple, but that one was a bit more important. Then Brown cleared a defensive board, missed a shot in the lane, but Odom grabbed it and drew a foul. Lamar (who’s a better FT shooter in the fourth) made both and L.A. had the lead back.

5:47 Brown, getting some trust from Jackson, made the second of two free throws to put L.A. up 93-91.

4:45 Why did Gasol miss two free throws? He’s dead tired. Hasn’t sat once this half, and L.A. ran their offense through him for the last four minutes.

3:42 Another big steal from Ariza in the fourth quarter (remember, at least once a game), and he made 1-of-2 to bring L.A. within one.

1:59 Insane pull-up three from Kobe for the tie. Mamba personified.

1:44 Another foul on the perimeter as an exhausted Gasol bumped Billups, and Chauncey wasn’t missing again.

0:45.3 Mamba. This guy’s insane. Bryant pulled up on Nene from 15 feet to swish the net and tie the game.

0:29.6 Billups drove hard to the hoop, wildly threw the ball back, and Nene somehow got control. With four Lakers in the lane, he found Martin on the baseline for a hoop, and Denver was up 103-101.

0:13.7 With Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson calling a violation on a jump ball between Gasol and Nene (J.R. Smith entered the area), Ariza got control briefly but appeared to be helped to the ground by Anthony. Whatever happened, Ariza fumbled the ball away, and Fisher was forced to foul Billups. He made both, and L.A. trailed by four.

0:07.9 Bryant pushed the ball and fed Gasol, who barely made the first and swished the second.

0:04.3 Back to the line went Billups, and he missed the first. L.A. had life, calling timeout to advance the ball. Yet it wouldn’t matter, as Fisher missed a game-tying three, and the series was tied at one.