What an effort by Andrew Bynum and the Lakers in game one of the first round of the playoffs, as they shut down the Denver Nuggets 103-88, setting the pace leading into Game 2. The Nuggets are the NBA’s top scoring offense, but weren’t anything close to that, shooting 35.6 percent. Their 88 points are just over 16 points under their season average. But one number was indeed on par, their opponent’s scoring output. The Lakers were able to score 103 points, two more than the Nuggets normally allow.
Why the struggle? Look no further than Nuggets guards Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo. The duo combine to score 31 points per game, but were held to just 15 on 6-of-22 shooting, and 0-for-5 from long distance.
Denver Nuggets (0-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (1-0)
7:30 PM PST, May 1, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports West, TNT
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Nuggets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Kosta Koufos
Key Reserves: G Andre Miller, F Corey Brewer
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Nuggets by a margin of 98-52. The Lakers took the regular season series, winning three of four. They lead 1-0 in this best of seven first round series.
- Andrew Bynum got a triple-double the hard way in Game 1 — scoring 10 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking 10 shots, a post-season record (tied with Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton).
- The Lakers’ 14 blocks were the most in a playoff game since they were on the receiving end of 15 Oklahoma City Thunder blocks on April 20, 2010.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
Limit the Guards
If these guards cannot get this team going, the Nuggets will flounder, much like they did in game one. First there’s Afflalo, whose nine points were the fewest since March 13th against the Atlanta Hawks. The former UCLA star has blossomed with the Nuggets, and is counted on to lead the charge in any given game. His shooting percentage of .273 was the lowest he has shot since a January 2nd victory against the Bucks.
Perhaps more importantly is Lawson. Taking him out of the picture almost assures that the Nuggets crumble. It wasn’t too long ago that he was kept under double-digits in scoring, when the Lakers held him to 4-of-14 shooting for nine points in a 103-97 victory on April 13th. Compare that to Denver’s victory on New Year’s Day, when Lawson shot 5-for-11, scoring 17 points and dishing 11 assists.
The formula to success for Denver begins and ends with their guards. If they sniff success, the Lakers could be in for a long night against the league’s top scoring team.
Continue with High Intensity Defense
It’s probably too much to ask out of the team to block 14 shots again, and even more so to expect Andrew to single-handedly swat 10, but the team is intimidating, enough to leave the Nuggets quivering. The Lakers are perhaps the most intimidating team in the playoffs as size is concerned, featuring their twin tower seven-footers — Bynum and Pau Gasol. If one won’t limit the paint, the other will. It forces teams to utilize the perimeter.
It’s a good idea to push the Nuggets out towards the perimeter, further pushing into point number one with the battered guard play. The Nuggets rank 23rd in the league, shooting 33.2 percent from long-distance. Against the Lakers, the number crumbles to a frustrating 22.6 percent, lower than even the league’s worst team — the Charlotte Bobcats, who shot 29.5 percent.
By playing intense defense for 48 minutes, the Nuggets will get forced into a bad shot, which will lead to another, killing the momentum of the game for Denver and giving the Lakers a 2-0 series lead.
Utilize Home Court
The Lakers were 2-0 at home during the regular season against Denver, but lost their lone trip to Denver. If they can grab momentum with a victory, the Nuggets may dwindle, and bow out. But, this is the playoffs, and anything can happen. Any home game is a must win, and the Lakers cannot forget that.
It is important to remember that the Lakers were 26-7 at home, a strong record, but one that reigns supreme over their road record of 15-18. A loss at home will give the Nuggets home-court advantage. After tonight’s game, three of the possible five remaining games will be played in Denver, including the next two. Assuming the Lakers are unable to win at the Pepsi Center, a loss tonight could result in potential elimination.
Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 104, Nuggets 98
Worst-Case: Nuggets 97, Lakers 96