Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road playoff contest against Denver, the Lakers coming in with a 2-0 series lead, 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
12:00 Hello from Denver, folks. One difference from George Karl to start the first Nuggets home game: Timofey Mozgov got the start at center instead of Kosta Koufos, in an attempt to show more size on Bynum. Karl did say that he wouldn’t make an adjustment on Kobe, averaging 34.5 points per game, however, as he was more concerned about Gasol and Bynum getting wide open looks inside.
3:17 A 9-0 Nuggets run thanks to a mix of offensive rebounding and fast break points (6) off misses and turnovers gave Denver a 19-12 lead, the first deficit of any kind the Lakers had faced in this series. Afflalo also hit two triples, after going 0 for 8 in Games 1 and 2, plus a jumper to lead Denver with eight points.
0:00 It only got worse for the Lakers from there. Would you believe a 20-2 Nuggets run to close the quarter? The resulting score was 30-14, with Denver hitting 48% of its shots to LAL’s 37%, using six offensive boards, seven fast break points, two triples and four free throws, with LAL getting none of any.
10:24 Did we mention that it only got worse? The Nuggets scored the first eight points of the second quarter to open an improbable 38-14 lead, LAL looking strangely rattled, and Denver flying all over the place.
7:34 L.A. did eventually respond, however, getting a 9-0 run to cut Denver’s 24-point lead at its zenith down to 15. Barnes converted a transition layup and Blake a three out of a time out to cap the run, after Mike Brown had preached patience and control in the huddle. Two minutes later, Bryant dropped his second triple surrounding two of his own free throws to cut the lead down to 11 points, 13 off the 24-point total from early in the period.
2:03 The lead dropped to as few as 11, but L.A. couldn’t get closer, with Denver scoring four straight to push their edge back to 17 when JaVale McGee hit his third improbable field goal at the rim, and Lawson got to the rim. Perhaps the larger story: LAL had gotten no points on 0 of 3 field goals from Bynum, who was also inactive protecting the rim, after two very strong all-around games in Los Angeles. The halftime deficit, all told, was 16 at 55-39,
6:34 Bynum’s second field goal in a row built upon a fantastic possession from Kobe, who first won a jump ball over the 7-1 Mozgov, then pulled up for a deep three to beat the shot clock, reaching 19 points and getting L.A. within nine. We had a ball game brewing despite that huge early run from the home team.
3:16 More Bynum, with a second and-1 layup with McGee committing the foul, the latter cutting Denver’s lead down to just seven. Bynum had 10 points, after the goose egg in the first half, and after a goaltend wasn’t called, Sessions dropped a jumper off the loose ball to trim the lead even further at 67-62.
0:00 The lead was seven after a 26-17 quarter for the Lakers, who got a fantastic period from Bynum (12 points, four boards, one block) and thus trailed by only seven despite a late bucket from Andre Miller (the only player in the series averaging more than Gasol’s 6.5 assists). LAL dominated the glass in the quarter, grabbing 18, the same number they totaled in the first half.
5:12 LAL was as close as four points in the third quarter, looking well on their way back while controlling tempo, but Denver got back to its running game in the fourth, building its lead back up to 10 points with five minutes to play. Two young Nuggets bigs, McGee and Faried, had double-doubles, thanks mostly to extra effort, and meanwhile, the Lakers had already attempted 21 triples, making only six.
2:04 Bryant hit 1 of 2 free throws, for just his sixth point of the second half (6 of 21 FG’s) and Sessions two free throws, but a Faried elbow jumper kept the Nuggets up seven points as the clock became a major issue…
0:00 … And, yes, the mountain proved too high to climb. Allowing that massive Nuggets run to close the first quarter and start the second, creating a 24-point deficit, came back to bite hard, despite trimming (at one point) 20 points off that margin. Silver lining: LAL knows that its effort can improve markedly in the first half of Game 4. Taking a 3-1 series lead heading back for Game 5 just takes a better Game 4 effort. The final: 99-84. We’ll see you on Sunday.