Bynum’s triple-double leads Lakers to victory
LOS ANGELES — Andrew Bynum said after finishing the Lakers’ final pre-playoff practice Saturday: “We’re well aware we need to come out and make a statement in the first game.”
Bynum wanted the Lakers to re-establish themselves as a threat to win what would be a third NBA championship in four years by dominating the Denver Nuggets, and that’s just what happened Sunday at Staples Center.
The Lakers’ defense was smothering, and it was Bynum who anchored the paint and turned high-percentage Denver shots into disappointing results for NBA’s highest-scoring team in the regular season.
The Lakers won, 103-88, and Bynum piled up 10 blocks – tying the NBA record held by Mark Eaton and Hakeem Olajuwon for a playoff game. Bynum added 10 points and 13 rebounds for a triple-double, his career first and the Lakers’ first in the postseason since Magic Johnson’s in the 1991 NBA Finals.
“To me, the difference in the game is Andrew Bynum,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “He can control a game without shooting a single shot if he wanted to.”
The Nuggets scored 104.1 points on 47.6 percent shooting in the regular season, when they roared to eight victories in their final 10 games to claim the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed and draw the No. 3 Lakers.
On Sunday, Denver shot 35.6 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 21 points.
“Bottom line is wins,” Bynum said. “Obviously I want to score more points, but sometimes that’s not what’s available to you, so you have to do the next-best thing.”
Nuggets coach George Karl pointed out that only one illegal-defense violation was called on Bynum, hoping the referees would limit Bynum’s time playing zone-like defense in the paint in Game 2 Tuesday night.
But Karl also didn’t think his team was aggressive enough, saying, “Our start was too regular-season-oriented, and not NBA playoff-oriented.”
Leading Nuggets scorer Ty Lawson was kept at bay by the Lakers, going scoreless with just one assist and two turnovers in the first half, which ended with the Lakers ahead, 50-40. Lawson finished with seven points on 3-of-11 shooting and just two assists.
“They just played a good game,” Lawson said. “No one is going to have their heads down or anything like that. We’re going to come back. We’re all fighters on this team, so we’re going to have a good game when we come back Tuesday.”
The Lakers hit the half-century mark by halftime even though Kobe Bryant was cold with just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting. His lack of scoring production was offset by reserve guard Steve Blake drilling three 3-pointers in the first quarter and second-year small forward Devin Ebanks leading the team with 12 first-half points.
Bryant predictably heated up in the second half to end up with a game-high 31 points, although he shot 11-of-24 from the field to get there.
The Nuggets didn’t necessarily think they were going to stop the Lakers’ offense in this series, but they hoped to overcome it by increasing the tempo of the game for more easy baskets.
The Lakers were dead-set on not allowing that to happen, and they actually outscored Denver, 5-0, in fast-break points in a first quarter that almost entirely went Los Angeles’ way.
For the game, Denver outscored the Lakers in fast-break points but not by nearly enough: 19-11. Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 19 points in a losing effort.
Denver’s playoff depth is hurt by season-ending injuries to Wilson Chandler and Rudy Fernandez. Bench leader Al Harrington contributed to Denver’s slow start by missing all three of his first-quarter shots. The Lakers led, 27-14, after one period, and Harrington shot 4-of -14 from the field, scoring 10 points.
“We’ve got to put our track shoes on next game and try to out-run their bigs,” Harrington said.
NOTES: Matt Barnes played 29 minutes despite his sprained right ankle, although Ebanks started for the Lakers in place of suspended Metta World Peace. After Sunday, World Peace is still suspended for five more Lakers games, playoff or regular-season. … Lakers assistant coach John Kuester was back with the team after missing the final regular-season games because of the death of his mother. Lakers coaching consultant Ettore Messina helped prepare the Lakers’ offense for the playoffs while Kuester was away…. The Lakers outscored Denver in points in the paint, 64-44.