Lakers 92, Nuggets 89: Dec. 30 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday afternoon contest against Denver, the Lakers looking to build on consecutive wins against Utah and New York in which neither team shot better than 33 percent (first time since 1959), with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, Nene and T. Mozgov

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 As you may or may not have noticed above, we had two changes to the starting line up for L.A.: Bynum returned after missing four games due to suspension, and Matt Barnes got the nod over Devin Ebanks, Mike Brown rewarding him for solid bench play in the past two games. It was Bynum who got much of the early action, scoring eight of L.A.’s first 12 points, all at the rim or the foul line.

5:12 Barnes made his impact, too, putting back a Kobe miss from the paint a moment after his basket cut got him two more points, and L.A. holding a 16-10 early edge. The biggest concern heading into the game defensively, Ty Lawson’s penetration, was a non-issue as L.A. did well not to offer any driving lanes.

0:00 The Lakers weren’t able to capture the defensive energy they carried through blowout wins over New York and Utah, in part because the Nuggets are such a good pick and roll team that they know how to break down P&R rotations. Nonetheless, Bynum’s 4-of-5 FG’s for 10 points carried L.A., down just one at the quarter break.

SECOND QUARTER
7:37 Gasol, as a true Catalan from Barcelona, isn’t the biggest fan of day games. And while he looked sluggish at times in the opening minutes, you couldn’t really tell from his box score, as he totaled seven points, three boards and an assist with L.A. trailing 31-28.

2:55 After simply taking what the defense gave him for the first 13 minutes he was in the game, Kobe dished out of double teams to create plenty of open shots, getting five assists despite his teammates going 0-for-10 on three-pointers. However, when George Karl finally pulled the double team, Kobe scored on three straight trips down, each time from the lane.

0:00 L.A. managed to take a 46-45 lead into the second half despite turning the ball over 12 times and missing all 12 of its three-point attempts, thanks largely to smart decision making from Bryant, and 5-of-7 shooting from both 7-footers.

THIRD QUARTER
6:29 Led by Bryant and the bigs, L.A. began to assert its will a bit, opening a four-point lead on Bryant’s jumper, even as the Nuggets hung around. Triple-double watch was officially on, as Bryant’s eight assist got Bynum a dunk, alongside his 10 points and seven boards.

4:11 There are few, if any, better mid to long-range big men shooters than Gasol, who sank a 20-footer to put L.A. up seven. However, poor work on the defensive glass, and a failure to rotate out to Al Harrington resulted in a Lawson (he’s 5-11) put-back layup, and Al’s triple.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:45 A corner three from Kapono was just the second make for L.A. in 19 attempts, good for 10.5 percent. Fortunately for the purple and gold, Bynum was gobbling up several of the misses, putting back two shots in two minutes to reach a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. Denver, however, was scoring too, getting an Afflalo three and Mozgov layup as the score was tied at 78.

6:00 A rather sloppy day game saw the Lakers amass 19 turnovers and convert only 2-of-22 three-pointers, yet they found themselves down only two halfway through the fourth thanks to some terrific efficiency inside (Bynum 11-for-16, Gasol 7-for-10).

3:23 Bynum continued to go completely nuts, converting an and-1 alley-oop layup/dunk from Bryant (nine assists) to reach 27 points and 12 rebounds in his first game back. To say that he was dominating the paint would be an understatement, as L.A. got within two points.

0:01.1 What if I told you Denver wouldn’t score for the final 3:40 of play? L.A., meanwhile, scored eight points, highlighted by Bynum’s layup after he swatted Nene, while the Nuggets missed some glorious chances at tying the game. In fact, Gallinari finished a horrid day by missing a wide-open three, and more importantly, a wide-open layup with two seconds left that would have tied the game. Instead, Bryant hit 1-of-2 free throws, and Harrington missed a desperation three in a 92-89 final.