NBA Playoffs: Los Angeles Lakers Torch Denver Nuggets 122–107

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IApril 23, 2008

The good news: As expected, the Denver Nuggets made some adjustments from Game 1.

The bad news: In the long run those adjustments weren’t good enough.

Kobe Bryant was defended again by Kenyon Martin, and he came out aggressively and went right at K-mart. He shot 8-10 and scored a career-high 20 points in the first quarter.

Bryant started fast and ended hot, scoring 49 points. In between his hot start and hotter finish he had 10 assists. He shot 18-27 and placed the Nuggets in "slim chance to win" territory.

According to reports, the Nuggets placed an emphasis on defense for Game 2. Apparently that message was lost on the team as the first quarter ended with a 33–32 Lakers lead.

The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 26-17 in the second quarter to take a halftime lead of 59-49. The Nuggets had just four assists on 17 field goals. On the other hand, the Lakers had 17 assists in the first half and were 6-12 on 3-point baskets.

Kobe Bryant never looked better as a player and a teammate. He put on a classic playoff performance and was on fire the entire night, at one point making 10 straight shots.

He came out aggressively, taking advantage of the defense, and made it a point to put them in a precarious position forcing them to make a decision. He didn’t settle for the jump shot and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the defense.

The Nuggets seemed to be attempting to take away the scoring of Pau Gasol and the rest of the Lakers in the first half, but Kobe Bryant was unstoppable.

The Nuggets took the lead on an 11-0 run to start the third quarter, but the Lakers re-gained the lead in the third quarter and held the lead the remainder of the second half as Kobe Bryant turned into a facilitator and proceeded to get his teammates involved.

The Lakers were up 89–79 at the end of the third quarter. Lamar Odom was saddled with foul trouble all night and not a major factor in this game, but did have four points and six assists.

Luke Walton made a solid contribution with a stat line that read 18 points on 7-11 shooting, seven rebounds, and five assists. Pau Gasol had another solid outing with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The player of the game, Kobe Bryant, scored 19 points in the last seven minutes of the game to ensure that the Lakers would stay ahead and to send a message to the Nuggets that, no matter what changes were made, he would remain an unstoppable force in leading the Lakers to victory.

The Nuggets received 31 points and five assists from Allen Iverson, 23 points and five rebounds from Carmelo Anthony, and 21 points from JR Smith. Smith got into a jawing match with Kobe Bryant, which was strange seeing as he had just scored 49 points on the Nuggets at that time.

It appeared that JR felt that Kobe was trying to show up or embarrass the Nuggets and felt like he had to say something. The outcome was no longer in doubt and it would've been wise for JR to leave him alone at that point. Some felt that Kobe was in a way competing with the Hornets Chris Paul for the MVP.

I felt that he was playing a phenomenal team game within the flow of game to beat the Denver Nuggets. Kobe Bryant takes it as a challenge when there is a lot talking going on. 

As an unsolicited message to JR: stop talking to, annoy or attempt to bother Kobe in any way otherwise he will make you look silly.  

Linas Kleiza started the game and pumped in 10 points. Starting Kleiza was a new twist, but it did weaken the Nuggets bench taking away from their bench scoring.

Another key statistic of the night: The Lakers had 33 assists, while the Nuggets only had 12 for the game. That’s 12 assists on 37 made field goals. To say that the Nuggets aren’t making the extra pass would be an understatement.

The Nuggets finished the game going 4-19, shooting 21.1 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers were 12-28, shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

Some people have said that the Nuggets have shown that they can play defense based on Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony’s steals and Marcus Camby’s blocked shots, however these stats are better described as Fool’s Gold displaying gambling on defense and not playing solid defense. 

The Lakers received another solid contribution from their bench, outscoring the Nuggets bench 33–27 on Wednesday night. The Nuggets played too much one-on-one basketball and not enough team basketball. The Nuggets defense will be their Achilles heel, giving up far too many lay-ups and points in the paint to beat the Lakers.

The Lakers have shown good balance and patience as a team and are able to get any shot they wanted. The Lakers hold a 2–0 lead over the Nuggets and have scored 250 points on them. Teams with a 2-0 deficit in a NBA best-of-seven series have lost 93.6 percent time in NBA History.

Their loss wasn’t as bad as the hideous outfit that TNT analyst Craig Sager wore on Wednesday night. It looked like he dressed in the dark as if the outfit felt like it matched. Memo to Craig: It did not match.

Game 3 will be in Denver on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm MST.