After the Nuggets' desultory game one loss to the Lakers in their first-round playoffs matchup, there were legitimate questions about whether Denver even belonged in the same arena as Kobe Bryant and his L.A. crew. Game two was considerably less humiliating, with the Nugs making the Angelenos work a little harder than on Sunday. But even though the Lakers' final margin of victory was just four points, at 104-100, did you doubt for a minute they'd win? I didn't.
Throughout, the Lakers demonstrated their versatility. Whereas Ty Lawson seemed to be both asleep and brain dead during much of the first contest, he brought energy and verve (not to mention 25 points) to last night's contest -- attributes that opened up the court and allowed the Nugs to run on occasion. But despite the advancing age of Bryant and some of his compatriots, L.A. handled the quicker tempo better than anticipated and consistently took advantage of defensive lapses to score easy buckets.
Granted, not all of Bryant's baskets were gimmes. But unlike on Sunday, when he struggled with his shot by his future-Hall-of-Fame standards, he was on the mark throughout game two. He racked up 38 points and could have exceeded fifty if he'd felt like it. And while Andrew Bynum didn't duplicate the ten-block swat attack that left the Nuggets looking like Lilliputians over the weekend, he ratcheted up his scoring, notching 27 points and looking pretty damn indomitable.
Denver, meanwhile, didn't get enough from its bevy of role players to truly challenge L.A. Although Kenneth Faried made a slew of rookie mistakes (commentator Scott Hastings accurately pinned him with an iffy first half), he compensated with enough monster jams and big put-backs (supplemented by gravity-defying boards) to chalk up fourteen points and the scoring silver medal. But Danilo Gallinari, who should be flourishing in the absence of Metta World Peace, couldn't get much going (he finished with a baker's dozen), Andre Miller followed his decent first game by registering a friggin' donut, and the three Denver centers -- JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos -- were credited with a cumulative thirteen points, less than half of Bynum's total.
Given those numbers, it's a wonder the Nuggets stuck as close as they did -- and their success at doing so offers hope that they'll be able to avoid a sweep and notch at least one win in Denver, scheduled for Friday and Sunday, respectively. But thus far, the Lakers don't appear to be taking the Nuggets seriously, and who can blame them?
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