May 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) and shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) celebrate after Bynum scores and draws a foul against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of game two of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

2012 NBA Playoffs: Los Angeles Lakers Edge Denver 104-100, Lead Series 2-0

The Lakers earned the victory in an important Game 2 to secure the advantage heading into Denver. This game was more hard fought than Game 1, but it brought the best out of All Stars Kobe Bryant and ( and more importantly ) Andrew Bynum. His presence was felt defensively in Game 1, but his offense left more to be desired. That changed in game 2 as he asserted himself more offensively and was consistent on the defensive end.

Denver showed a lot of fight as they got solid production out of Ty Lawson. Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. They all brought energy that was influential to the flow of the game. The Nuggets showed that they have a no-quit attitude and are not intimidated by the Lakers, despite having now lost both games in Los Angeles.

In the end, the Lakers’ star power -Bryant, Bynum, and Gasol- proved to be too much for the speedy youth of the Denver Nuggets.

Stars of the Game:

Offensive:

LAL: Kobe Bryant, SG, 38 points shooting 15/29 from the field, 6/7 Free Throws

DEN: Ty Lawson, PG, 25 points shooting 11/17 from the field, 7 Assists

Defensive:

LAL: Pau Gasol, PF, 2 Blocks, 2 Steals, 10 Rebounds

DEN: JaVale McGee, C, 6 Blocks, 9 Rebounds

Victory Factors:

Andrew Bynum gets tonight’s game ball. Kobe Bryant scored 38 points, but that’s to be expected. Bynum’s play, especially his offense, solidified the core of the Los Angeles Lakers’ game plan. The offense flows through him and the defense is built around him. His efficient play on both ends (27 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) causes a domino effect leaching off into his teammates.

Kobe’s play cannot and should not be ignored. To expect great play is different than just assuming it will occur. Kobe’s play should not be taken for granted. He was vintage Kobe tonight as he scored 38 points on over 50% shooting. When a team’s two All Stars are displaying why they are All Stars with performances such as Bryant’s and Bynum’s, they are difficult to overcome.

Top 3 Concerns:

Los Angeles:

  1. Ty Lawson must be contained
  2. Bench needs to score (8 total points)
  3. Allowed six players to score in double figures


Denver:

  1. Bynum is not being pushed around enough
  2. Boxing out is an issue that needs to be addressed
  3. Ty Lawson needs to assert himself more into the offense


Additional Thoughts:

The Nuggets put up a fight. They came out of half time full of energy outscoring the Lakers by double digits. However, they let the Lakers get momentum and dictate the tempo of the game. The Nuggets cannot compete with the Lakers in a half court set. They must keep the game moving quickly. Ball movement and floor spacing will be essential to manipulating the Lakers’ defense.

Defensively, the Nuggets must pressure Kobe Bryant off the ball. They’ll have to make him work before he even touches the ball. JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried have their work cut out for them in the paint. They have to utilize their athletic ability to make up for the Lakers’ bulk. Rebounding will be the key to the next game.

3 Keys to Next Game:

Los Angeles:

    • Slow the game down
    • Spread the ball to more scoring options
    • Improve perimeter shooting (13.3% from three point)

    Denver:

      • Get the crowd involved
      • Push the Lakers’ big men around
      • Push the fast break


      Next Game:
      Friday, May 5
      10:30 PM ET
      on ESPN

      Tune in!

      Also, Be sure to Follow Me on Twitter! @JohnYJArmstrong

      Tags: Denver Nuggets Los Angeles Lakers NBA NBA Playoffs 2012 Western Conference Round 1

      • arth65456

        Good recap John
         
        The Nuggets looked good last night and surprised me the way they competed deep into the game. The difference was that Kenneth Faried is a great rookie, but he had some huge turnovers in that 4th quarter. I thought Steve Kerr made a great point that maybe Denver uses more of Andre Miller in Game 3 if Afflalo is not producing. What do you think?

      • JohnYJArmstrong

        @arth65456
        Thank you! I agree. Turnovers, rookie or not, are momentum killers. Denver must maintain efficiency if they wish to compete with the Lakers. Andre Miller is an efficient player and knows how to run an offense. The Nuggets could play the offense-defense switch with Miller and Afflalo down the stretch using Miller offensively and Afflalo defensively. 
        Denver is not out of this series yet and, with the home court advantage, can even the series. The deciding factor for Denver is tempo. They must make Los Angeles run!

      • MatthewBrannan

        Not so sure about the Wizards of Kings but, here in Chicago the Bulls run things. Too bad Rose got hurt or else this season was ours. http://goo.gl/2LLYv
         

      • JohnYJArmstrong

        I had Chicago winning the East, but as far as this series is concerned, I think LA is scary in the West. Don’t be surprised to see them in the Western Conference Finals, and potentially the NBA Finals.

      • http://michealowens.wordpress.com/ mowens04

        Good stuff. I personally think the Nuggets biggest issue is one they can’t address – they just don’t have the size to compete. Plain and simple. You mention that they need to push Kobe off the ball more, but I don’t think that’s going to matter. If he’s not going to score, Bynum or Gasol will. They can’t contain all three of them, it’s just not possible.
         
        Also keep in mind – Sessions hasn’t really been clicking this series. If he gets going here soon, Denver has no chance at making this a series. As it stands, I think they could be done in five if they don’t find a way to control the paint on the defensive end.