(Photo: Getty Images | Jeff Gross)

NBA Playoffs – Western Conference 1st Round: Game 2

It is May 1, 2012 and the Los Angeles Lakers are back to work at the Staples Center tonight for the second game of their first round series with the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers won the first game 103-88, led by dominant performances by Andrew Bynum & Kobe Bryant. It was a solid playoff opener for the Lakers, very business-like, that has set the tone for how the Lakers will approach the playoffs.

The Lakers were able to control the tempo, stop the Nuggets from getting out in transition, scoring in the paint and getting to the free throw line. Andrew Bynum posted the Lakers first triple-double (10 points, 13 rebounds & 10 blocked-shots) in 21-years. Kobe Bryant spent three quarters getting his teammates involved, empowering them to be more aggressive, and then taking over the fourth quarter and posting 31 points in the process.

(Photo: Getty Images | Jeff Gross)

The Lakers were able play dominant defensively, receive solid production from Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions, a combined 31 points from Devin Ebanks, Steve Blake & Jordan Hill and use some timely outside shooting to achieve and maintain a large lead. On so many occasions this season, the Lakers have worked to acquire a big lead only to let the opponent back into the game.

The Lakers defense was so dominant that Nuggets Head Coach George Karl began lobbying the officials that the Lakers defense was illegal in the post game interview. Bynum’s effort was outstanding, but according to Hoopdata.com, the Nuggets shot 48.8-percent on shots at the rim and 13.4-percent from 3-9 feet out.

A few early ‘defensive 3-seconds’ calls will not be shocking. The Lakers cannot expect Andrew Bynum to hold another record-setting block party, Jordan Hill to post another double-digit effort in points & rebounds off the bench. Devin Ebanks to have another highly efficient night (shooting 5-of-6 from the field, 2-2 from the free throw line) and the Nuggets backcourt of Ty Lawson & Arron Afflalo to shot 6-of-22 from the field and miss all five of their three-point shots.

The Lakers intend to start the month of May with another impressive win. However, the purple and gold have to deal with the necessary adjustments that the Nuggets will make. The Nuggets will work hard to increase the tempo, their backcourt will get back on track and Denver should shoot better.

The Lakers have room for improvement; their perimeter defenders have to do a better job of keeping the Nuggets out of the paint, take better care of the ball to cut down the turnovers and shoot better. The Lakers plan of attack offensively should remain the same, run the offense through Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol on the inside, and use excellent ball movement and solid player movement to find high percentage shots and to get everyone involved. Defensively control the tempo, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, keep the Nuggets out of the paint, get back in transition, control the boards, win the points in the paint battle, contest every shot and play defense without fouling.

Starters
Lakers: R. Sessions, K. Bryant, D.Ebanks, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Nuggets:
T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos 

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: FS West (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz) & TNT
  • Denver: Altitude Sports & Entertainment (Chris Marlowe & Scott Hastings )

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Denver: KKFN AM 950 (Jerry Schemel & Mark Bertagnolli)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Metta World Peace (League Suspension – Game 3) Out
  • Matt Barnes (Sprained Right Ankle) Day-to-Day
  • Ramon Sessions (Sprained Left Shoulder, AC Joint) Probable
  • Devin Ebanks (Middle & Ring Finger Contusions, Left Hand) Probable

Nuggets:

  • Al Harrington (Knee) Day-to-Day