Sports: Liking the Lakers’ Playoff Chances
Without suspended wingman Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest, the Los Angeles Lakers raced to an early 2-0 series lead versus the Denver Nuggets in their first round battle for a Western Conference semifinal berth in the 2011-12 National Basketball Association playoff wars after the many-time NBA champions scored another triumph yesterday.
In Game 2 over at the Staples Center, Kobe Bryant erupted for 38 points in 40 minutes of play on 15-of-29 success from the field while converting six of his seven freethrow tries in the game. The ‘Black Mamba’ also had two treys and three steals for Coach Mike Brown’s second playoff win in a row as head coach of LA.
Coupled with the Lakers’ 103-88 thumping of the same Nuggets quintet mentored by George Karl during last Monday’s opening game at the same venue, the Tinseltown squad are halfway through their first assignment of postseason play with the winner of this series expecting a tough customer in either Oklahoma City or defending champion Dallas.
The Lakers opened up the scoring in Game 1 by talking a huge 27-14 spread right in the first canto before coasting to a 10-point advantage at halftime. Behind Bryant’s 31 markers, LA won with ease against the visiting Nuggets with starting guardaRamon Sessions contributing 14 points and five assists.
Even seldom used forward Devin Ebanks added 12 points for the Lakers right in the opening quarter as he started at small forward in lieu of the suspended Artest. Big man Andrew Bynum also finished the match with a rare triple double: 10 points, 13 caroms and a playoff-tying 10 blocked shots.
What’s beautiful with LA is the team’s ability to adjust in their game when the need arises particularly when missing the likes of Bryant, Bynum and Artest like during the regular season or even at the start of the playoffs with Denver as players like Ebanks, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes responded to the hilt when called upon to deliver.
Then there are serviceable reserves in Josh McRoberts, Darius Morris, Troy Murphy and Christian Eyenga who can all deliver in a specific play whether on defense or when they are needed to score precious baskets for the squad. In short, all these players just need a morale-booster or some confidence-building quality minutes inside the hardcourt in order to regain their composure and deliver the goods when told to do so.
Against the league’s highest scoring ballclub in the regular season, the Lakers have limited Denver to just 94 points per game in the playoffs, way below the Nuggets’ 104+ scoring output in 66 elimination-round matches to top the NBA in point production. Danilo Gallinari had 19 in Game 1 while Ty Lawson scored 25 for Coach Karl in yesterday’s setback.
In Game 2, Bryant was backstopped by Bynum’s 27 points and nine caroms while Sessions had 14 and Gasol chipped in 13 points together with 10 rebounds as the Lakers outscored the Nuggets in the opening period, 32-25, before coasting to that four-point triumph. LA kept Denver at bay by matching the Nuggets’ output in the second and third cantos.
For the surprise sixth seeded NBA team in the Western Conference, Lawson and Gallinari each scored in twin digits for the Nuggets alongside forward Kenneth Fareid (14), Corey Brewer (13), Arron Afflalo (11) and Al Harrington while Philippine naturalization prospect JaVale McGee had five points, nine rebounds and six blocks in Game 2.
The Lakers outrebounded the Nuggets in that Game 1 victory, 52-46, and played more as a team by recording 22 dishoffs as against Denver’s 17 while in turnovers, the Lakers had 11, one more than the Nuggets’ 10. In Game 2, Denver had more recoveries than the Lakers, 33-30, as well as in assists, 21-20, although the Nuggets turned the ball over three times more than LA, 13-10.
In other first-round results: Boston and Atlanta are tied at 1-all just like Chicago and Philadelphia as well as Orlando and Indiana while the LA Clippers are up 1-0 versus Memphis after scoring an unbelievable 99-98 come-from-behind win against the Grizzlies on the road after trailing by 21 in the payoff period. Miami leads New York, 2-0, as well as the Thunder over the Mavs (2-nil) and San Antonio over Utah (1-0).
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