Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Denver, the Lakers looking to build upon Game 1′s 103-88 victory, 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
10:45 Most expected Denver to make some adjustments and come out firing after being blown out easily in Game 1, but the Lakers again asserted their will in the opening minutes, taking a 6-0 lead behind their 7-footers: Bynum scored easily over Koufos (no double team came), and Gasol hit two jumpers, both wide open, the first because Kenneth Faried left Gasol to double Bynum.
8:36 The early dominance continued, as Bynum dunked on consecutive possessions, the first after Gasol led a 2-on-1 break with Denver trying to press a Lakers’ inbounds pass, the Spaniard streaking up the floor before tossing an oop for his fellow 7-footer. Denver’s time out came as they trailed 12-3. However, out of that break, Denver finally found its fast-break game, rolling off an 8-0 run almost all in transition, led by Lawson and Afflalo.
0:05.1 With Denver choosing not to double Kobe until he got into the paint, Bryant went off from the rest of the floor, nailing 6 of 8 shots for 14 points, including a three-pointer with five seconds left to put L.A. up 32-25. The Nuggets scored more effectively than in Game 1, thanks in part to two Al Harrington triples, but the Lakers were scoring with ease, Bynum adding 10 points to Kobe’s effort, the team shooting 61 percent.
8:30 The Lakers know exactly what Denver wants to do, and it’s not complicated: sprint out on every make or miss. Yet like for a period of the first quarter, missed Lakers shots led again to run outs and layups, a 6-0 Nuggs run tying the game at 36. Mike Brown took a time out to discuss as Kobe checked back in.
6:00 Bryant immediately rolled off five more points, reaching 19 already, figuring that if the Nuggets wanted to raise the intensity level, he was more than happy responding in kind. Jordan Hill then hit two free throws, and Bryant pulled up again for another jumper. On fire.
0:00 The stats told a decent story in the first: L.A. shot 53.3% to DEN’s 38.5%, with both making six free throws, suggested a big Lakers lead. But Denver grabbed 13 offensive rebounds (LAL allowed only 11.48 O boards per game in the regular season), leading to 18 second chance points. They also had 15 fast break points to LAL’s six, which allowed them to trail by just seven despite the discrepancy in shooting percentages.
8:20 As L.A. started cleaning the defensive glass, some O boards started to come at the other end, with an Ebanks window clean and pretty extra pass from Gasol getting Bynum a layup, then Bryant’s own O board resulting in his pretty and-1 jumper after getting Afflalo in the air. Bynum was the next to climb on the offensive glass, and his put-back made it 69-52, capping a 12-0 run that became 14-0 with an Ebanks jumper. Bynum had 20, and Kobe 27 already.
4:46 It was the Lakers calling time out moments later, however, as Ty Lawson went on a personal 7-0 scoring run, getting repeatedly to the basket for three field goals plus a free throw, cutting the lead back to 12 at 71-59. Still a long ways to go here for L.A. to let up.
0:23.0 Despite the Nuggets hitting a ridiculous 11 of 12 shots, many of them around the rim, L.A. held onto a 7-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, as Bynum (career playoff high 24 points) and Bryant (33 points, of course nowhere near a playoff career high) kept scoring. Teams both scored 26 points in the period, but L.A.’s coaches couldn’t be too thrilled with how many easy buckets were being conceded at the rim.
7:50 Sessions, displeased with a call on Corey Brewer’s missed dunk (he appeared not to touch Brewer) responded with consecutive field goals to push L.A.’s lead back to 14, when Denver had cut it to five with a hoop to start the final quarter. Bryant was on the bench for all but the second Sessions hoop (which was his first assist, incidentally), clapping as the bench (Sessions, Blake, Barnes, Hill and Gasol) rebuilt the lead.
6:00 L.A.’s lead at the six-minute mark, when most NBA teams want to be within 10 points for a final chance at a comeback, was nine at 92-83. The starters were in to try and close Denver out, a 2-0 series lead on the line, heading into Friday’s Game 3. Gallinari, who’d been far outplayed by his sub at SF, Brewer, missed a wide-open transition three that could have cut it to four, but Lawson’s transition pull-up after Kobe’s baseline miss made it 92-87 at the 4:35 mark, capping an 8-0 run.
3:00 Ebanks committed a charge as the Nuggets were on a 14-4 run, again cutting the lead to four after L.A. had pushed it to eight on Bryant’s three-pointer. L.A.’s offense stagnated as Kobe isolated on three straight trips, the two misses leading to Faried free throws (4-of-4) that again cut the lead to four, but Bryant stripped Faried on the next trip down, pushed the ball to the rim himself and fed Bynum for an and-1 dunk that made it 98-91 with 2:15 to play.
0:20.9 Sessions stepped up in crunch time first with a floater to keep the lead at six with 1:14 left, and then again by hitting both free throws at the 20.9 mark, countering a McGee tip in, to make it 102-96. Lawson got to the rim for a layup, but Bryant’s two free throws answered, giving him 38 points. Denver would get a final tip in, the winning score thus 104-100. Game 3 is on Friday in Colorado – see you there.