Apr 29, 2012, 8:02 PM EDT
Before the Lakers opened the playoffs at home against the Nuggets on Sunday, George Karl was asked at the beginning of his press conference if he thought his team had a chance. He responded by saying, “The first question and the arrogance of L.A. comes forth,” which was followed by laughs all around.
It turned out to be a legitimate question.
Denver looked completely over-matched in Game 1, and thanks to a triple-double effort of 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots from Andrew Bynum, the Lakers cruised to a 103-88 victory that was truly never in doubt.
If Bynum brings anywhere close to the focus and intensity he did in this one on the defensive end of the floor, the result of the series won’t be in doubt, either.
Denver’s strength offensively had been using Ty Lawson and Aaron Afflalo to get into the paint and create open looks for themselves and for their teammates. The Nuggets have also thrived in fast-paced games, and excel when you allow them to get out in transition. Because of Bynum’s presence in the paint — along with strong efforts from Pau Gasol and reserve Jordan Hill on the glass — there was none of that on Sunday.
Denver’s starting guards each finished 3-of-11 from the field, and were complete non-factors.
“To me, the difference in this game was Andrew Bynum,” Lakers head coach Mike Brown said afterward. “He could control a game without shooting a single shot if he wanted to. He could literally control the game without shooting a shot — that’s how good he is.
“He brought some added juice to the table to where his impact on the game was monstrous. He was an absolute beast down there.”
Bynum was a problem for the Nuggets to deal with on seemingly every possession. His 10 blocked shots tied an NBA playoff record shared by Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton, and set a new Lakers playoff record that had been previously held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The triple-double was the first for the Lakers in a playoff game since Magic Johnson’s in the 1991 NBA Finals.
“On defense, it’s about heart,” Bynum said afterward. “You can stop anybody if you really move your feet, and really get down, but a lot of players don’t want to do it on a consistent basis; they only want to do it when they have to. But tonight I felt like we were up on the pick and roll, and the guards were having a hard time coming off of it. And offensively, we took a lot of shots that were in the paint, and when we do that it’s harder for teams to run, especially with (Pau Gasol) and (Jordan Hill) offensive rebounding.”
On the offensive end, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 31 points, but 12 of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already well in hand. Devin Ebanks (starting in place of the suspended Metta World Peace) and Steve Blake were the ones that got L.A. going early, thanks mainly to Denver’s strategy of doubling the Lakers’ bigs hard in the post whenever they touched the ball.
The Lakers spaced the floor, moved the ball, and the seldom-used Ebanks and the up-and-down Blake made them pay seemingly every single time.
“We know Denver is doubling, and they’re going to double from all over the place, and they’re doubling quick, and they’re going to double hard,” Brown said. “We have to make sure that we space the floor very well and we move the ball at the right time without turning it over, making the easy pass to the open guy and let them make the assist versus the double team because we know it’s coming on a lot of our guys — from (Pau Gasol), to Andrew, to Kobe.”
Counting on role-players to consistently knock down shots might not be the best long-term strategy — especially on the road, and certainly against some higher-quality opponents later in the postseason. But defense is something you can build a foundation upon, and in Game 1, Bynum was the cornerstone of that effort.
“He was phenomenal tonight, and if he continues to play like he did, picking up the triple-double, being the kind of monster he was tonight patrolling that paint, we’ll be playing a long time,” Brown said.
“It’s not pressure, it’s just the truth,” Bynum said, when told his coach said that if he played like he did today that the Lakers would be in for a long playoff run. “If I come out and play defense, this team is a lot better. … I think today was a good showing that we’re a versatile team and we’re a deep team.”
Bryant summed up the Lakers’ long-term prospects more succinctly.
“We’re a championship-caliber team,” he said.
It’s one game, of course, and Denver will make adjustments as the series goes along. But there is no answer for what Andrew Bynum did defensively on Sunday, and if anywhere near that type of effort is delivered by the Lakers’ center on a consistent basis in these playoffs, the Nuggets won’t be the only team left wondering if they even have a chance.
May 21, 2013, 3:34 PM EDT
Phil Jackson was on the Dan Patrick show Tuesday — Jackson’s new book “11 Rings” is on sale as of today — and sat down for a long interview. I mean long — this is nearly 30 minutes, so you should only listen to this at work and not spend your valuable personal time on…
May 21, 2013, 3:07 PM EDT
Clippers owner Donald Sterling created a little stir when he was near the court watching Game 1 between the Spurs and Grizzlies Sunday — he didn’t bother to attend all of his own team’s playoff games, why was he suddenly at this one? Was he scouting potential coaches such as the Grizzlies Lionel Hollins or…
May 21, 2013, 2:31 PM EDT
We don’t need more people like Kevin Durant in basketball, we need more people like Kevin Durant on the planet. Kevin Durant has donated $1 million to Red Cross disaster relief efforts in the wake of a devastating tornado that ripped through the suburbs of Oklahoma City, leaving 24 dead and devastating the community. The…
May 21, 2013, 2:03 PM EDT
The NBA lottery is totally fixed, but in the interest of appeasing the NBA, we’re going to share the odds the league says each team has of receiving each pick. We will add that it’s been a long time since there was this little buzz around the NBA about the lottery — because nobody really…
May 21, 2013, 1:15 PM EDT
A good coach always has his players’ backs in public. Even if he hasn’t coached them in a decade. Enter legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who like a lot of people in the great state of New York was watching Carmelo Antony lead the Knicks to eventual second round playoff elimination this year. You’ll remember…
May 21, 2013, 11:57 AM EDT
This isn’t about Grizzlies’ fans or Spurs’ fans. This is about every city having a few complete idiots. The Sherriff’s Office in Bexar County – which includes San Antonio — is investigating a death threat leveled at Tony Parker during the Spurs/Grizzlies Game 1 Sunday, reports NBC’s WOAI in the city. The Bexar County Sheriff’s…
May 21, 2013, 11:43 AM EDT
Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and… David West? What could go wrong? David West has been a rock-solid veteran big man for the Pacers this season and has talked repeatedly about how much he loved playing there this year. But the NBA is a business and West is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Teams are…
May 21, 2013, 11:11 AM EDT
Kobe Bryant thinks this Lakers roster can work. Well, he at least thinks his chance at a much-coveted sixth ring is more likely if the Lakers bring back two of the top big men in the game, as opposed to having just one and restructuring the lineup to be closer to what Mike D’Antoni prefers.…
May 21, 2013, 10:40 AM EDT
The NBA lottery is fixed. There’s no question about it. Just as last year’s draft order was determined by a David Stern-led conspiracy, this year’s will be determined the same way. Think about it. If the NBA lottery really were legitimate, why not conduct the draw publically rather than in a back room? If the…
May 21, 2013, 9:55 AM EDT
The Charlotte Hornets became the New Orleans Hornets, which became the New Orleans Pelicans, allowing the Charlotte Bobcats to become the Charlotte Hornets. Got it? A few days after news leaked, the plan will become official today. Steve Reed of the Associated Press: Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is changing his team’s name to the…
May 21, 2013, 9:32 AM EDT
You can cross Stan Van Gundy off your coaching lists. The former Magic and Heat coach was on The David Baumann Show on 1080 The Team in Orlando and said he would not be coaching anywhere next season. He called it a family decision. He added that a few teams reached out to him but…
May 21, 2013, 9:03 AM EDT
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald wanted to sign Pablo Prigioni to a two-year deal, but the 35-year-old point guard and NBA rookie was only taking a one-year offer. That was practical — he signed for the veteran’s minimum and if he showed he belonged he could get a better deal. But it also may mean he…
May 21, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Game 2 is not going to look like Game 1. Memphis is not going to get its doors blown off from the opening tip as happened in their Game 1 loss. You can expect better pick and roll defense out of Memphis. You can also expect better ball movement and more Zach Randolph. You can…
May 21, 2013, 2:02 AM EDT
From the start, there was one thing most likely to keep Mike D’Antoni from returning as Lakers coach — free agent Dwight Howard. It may not have been that direct — and it may not change who is the Lakers coach next season — but apparently Howard let Lakers management know exactly how he feels…
May 21, 2013, 1:19 AM EDT
We need a game in this series so we can talk about basketball and not this ridiculous game of telephone. As we explained before, LeBron James took umbrage at something a reporter told him Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel said — except Vogel never said it. What Vogel said was, “They’re the next team that’s in…
May 20, 2013, 11:15 PM EDT
If you’re like me, you have been transfixed by the tragic events that have unfolded around Oklahoma City on Monday, where a monster tornado has left death and devastation in its wake. The pictures out of schools in that city are heart wrenching. The thoughts of all of us here at PBT are with the…
May 20, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
Just three seasons ago, the Golden State Warriors were a 26-win team with Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette as their two leading scorers — this was a team in need of a radical overhaul. Enter new ownership willing to invest in winning, new players to go with then rookie Stephen Curry, a new coach in…
May 20, 2013, 6:55 PM EDT
Let’s start out here by saying take this all with a grain of salt. People’s descriptions of fights after a bar closes often do not match reality. But a pair of brothers in Oregon told television station KGW that they snapped a picture of Blazers point guard Damian Lillard walking to his car outside a…
May 20, 2013, 5:56 PM EDT
Would the Nets wait to hire a coach until Memphis is eliminated from the playoffs just so they can make a run at Lionel Hollins, whose contract expires after the season? If Scott Skiles is a top alternative, patience could make sense. What’s there to lose? Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times: Some NBA officials…
May 20, 2013, 5:32 PM EDT
The Nets were surely dejected when Phil Jackson turned them down, so it seems they want at least one coaching candidate who’s extremely unlikely to reject them. Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball): the Nets also have put Scott Skiles on their short list. Skiles was fired…
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