Nuggets-Lakers playoffs game 1: Ty Lawson comes up small, Andrew Bynum big
The Nugs' desultory performance was epitomized by Ty Lawson's awful game, but he was hardly the sole Denverite at fault.
The afternoon's star was Lakers big man Andrew Bynum, who was once floated as possible trade bait during the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. At the time, folks like me argued against such a deal because Bynum has a long injury history. But no one's ever doubted that he's a beast when healthy, and he never looked more robust than yesterday, when he notched a triple-double, including a stunning ten blocked shots, all of which are featured in a video below.
Not that he was the whole show. Kobe Bryant had a sub-par first half, but he was effective as a decoy even when his jumpers weren't falling -- a situation that definitely benefited Devin Ebanks, who finished with a dozen. In the end, Kobe registered 31 points and succeeded in making the Nugs look like pretenders.
This was especially true of Lawson, who responded to what should have been his moment to cement his status as team leader by shrinking from the spotlight. By the midpoint of the third quarter, he had only one point -- and perhaps even worse, he'd only taken six shots, most of them down low among the trees, where his weak scoops left Bynum licking his chops. Moreover, he reacted to such smackdowns by pretty much doing the same thing over and over, rather than adapting his game to the circumstances. No wonder coach George Karl eventually had Andre Miller handle the ball on most possessions. He may not have Lawson's upside, but at least he didn't look terrified to be in the Land of Giants.
Lawson's no-show meant his teammates needed to step up in his absence -- and no one did. Danilo Gallinari finished with nineteen, but his play was spotty enough to demonstrate that he's not all the way back from his latest injury. Likewise, Al Harrington is basically playing on one leg, and while Karl kept him on the court plenty due to his scoring touch, he was a huge defensive liability. So, too, was JaVale McGee, who's got the size to challenge Bynum and Pau Gasal but not the brains; he was almost always out of position and regularly looked lost so lost that even Chris "Birdman" Andersen earned a few minutes. And while Kenneth Faried brought his trademark energy and excitement, he couldn't supplement these attributes with enough scoring to truly hinder the Lakers juggernaut.
Best-case scenario: This loss will serve as a wake-up call for Denver. Worst-case scenario: They're already nodding off, and will be put to sleep before long.
Here's the clip package of Bynum blocks.
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