(Boulder-CO) Kobe Bryant scored 49 points to catapult the Lakers into a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Denver Nuggets by way of this 122-107 loss. Denver once again showed little bend on their way to breaking defensively and allowing 122 points.
The first quarter was a good solid start for the Nuggets offensively. Denver got the fast break going which enabled the Nuggets to score 32 points in total. Linas Kleiza gave the Nuggets a nice boost with six quick points in the early goings, but it was Kobe who trumped all with 20 points in the first twelve minutes to bring the Laker point total to 33 points while falling just two shy of Elgin Baylor’s playoff franchise record of 22 points scored in a quarter back in March of 1962. Marcus Camby made a solid impression on the glass with six rebounds while rejecting two shots, including Jordan Farmar’s last second attempt that was emphatically swatted out of bounds to close out the first quarter.
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, George Karl substituted for Eduardo Najera at the end of the quarter causing a mismatch on Kobe Bryant. Karl also inserted Nene which created a bad match-up with the cagey Pau Gasol. So, with the Nugget reserves now in the game the Lakers took quick advantage with a 14-4 start to the second quarter. Kobe would continue his offensive onslaught by connecting on ten consecutive field goal attempts spanning from the first throughout the second quarter as the Laker lead would balloon to eleven points as the Nuggets played with ‘Melo as the only starter in the game through the six minute mark.
However, after trimming the lead down to just five with under two minutes to play, Denver once again failed to close out the quarter and allowed the Lakers to swell their lead to ten going into the half largely in part to Kobe’s 25 in the first 24.
Things weren’t looking good at all for Denver at intermission. The Nuggets had only five total assists in comparison to L.A.’s 17. The Nuggets also turned the ball over seven times resulting in eleven Laker points while only forcing L.A. into three turnovers for the same amount of points in return. And to further illustrate how badly out of sync the Nuggets closed out the first half, Allen Iverson was the only starter in double figures in scoring with twelve points and he was primarily assisted offensively by J.R. Smith who came off the bench with ten points. The Nuggets were also collectively 0-10 from downtown (’Melo was 0-3) while L.A. hit six out of its twelve attempts from long distance.
The Nuggets started slowly in the third, but after Carmelo Anthony hit the team’s first three-pointer and drew a foul after grabbing an offensive board the Nuggets were down by just three with a shade under the seven minute mark to play. Denver made it’s way back into the game by pressing the issue off of Laker misses and, despite not connecting on many buckets in transition, the Nuggets were relentlessly attacking the offensive glass and getting to the free-throw line where Marcus Camby’s two made free throws brought the game within one, 66-67. On the next L.A. possession a steal by Allen Iverson led to an outlet pass to Linas Kleiza for the jam to give the Nuggets their first lead since the first quarter at, 68-67.
Denver switched into their match-up two-three zone for the remainder of the third period, but every time Kobe Bryant would penetrate and dish it would lead to easy scoring opportunities for the Lakers. Made baskets are hard to run off of and with the mismatches created for L.A. by Eduardo Najera’s entrance back into the game the Nuggets found themselves down by eight again with two and a half minutes to play. Najera’s rotations were late, his post defense was porous, his feet slow, and the onus of the disadvantage he puts the Nuggets in on the boards against a big team like the Lakers falls squarely on George Karl. With Kenyon Martin in the game, the Nuggets have toughness and a guy who can realistically, or at least physically, bother Kobe Bryant even the slightest bit. But, with Najera, the Nuggets were exposed as being soft inside and slow afoot on defensive rotation on dribble penetration.
And as quickly as the Nuggets fought their way back into the game, The Lakers’ lead was just as quickly pushed back up to ten by the quarter’s completion. Kobe Bryant slipping backdoor, catching an alley-oop, and proceeding to throw it down on the flat-footed Eduardo Najera and a Sasha Vujacic trey combined to once again leave the Nuggets on the short end of the deal to close out yet another period and back down by ten.
Once in the final quarter, the Nuggets trimmed the Lakers’ lead in half on the back of two consecutive three’s by J.R. Smith early, but the Nuggets’ Swiss cheese defense just wasn’t enough. That in combination with two crooked air balls by Marcus Camby in the quarter’s first three minutes and the Nuggets were clearly going to play the role of their own worst enemy. Bad shots, poor personnel management, silly technical fouls on AI and J.R. Smith, still no commitment to defense, and little sense of urgency before it was too little too late all added up to the sum of the Nuggets dropping their fifth straight game to the Lakers this season by the score of, 122-107 . More importantly the loss brought the series to 2-0 favoring the Lakers heading back to Denver.
Here’s your depressing boxscore. There's plenty in there to point to and hiss at. But if I'll highlight any one aspect of it, it is how George Karl left Edaurdo Najera in the game for that long to guard Kobe Bryant that is truly intolerable. We’ll never know, but even if Karl rolls the dice and tries out Yakhouba Diawara or Steven Hunter for a few possessions just for argument’s sake I don’t think it could have been any worse than the complete and utter dissection of Eduardo Najera that Kobe Bryant orchestrated.
I’m out of things to say and so should be the Nuggets to Kobe Bryant. He has proved to be a bad man and I don‘t think the Nuggets have an answer for him. I went out on a wobbly limb and it broke sending me crashing to the ground. Somebody call for help. Not for me (I’ll be alright) , but for the Nuggets!