Slow start, Bynum's big night too much for Nuggets in Game 1
LOS ANGELES – Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari walked off the team bus and immediately was greeted by his father.
Coach George Karl was only a few steps into the team hotel when his 7-year-old daughter nearly tackled him in the hallway.
Despite a disappointing 103-88 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Nuggets did their best to keep things in perspective after Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
“Nobody’s heads are down,” Denver point guard Ty Lawson said. “We’re going to come right back. We’re all fighters on this team. I feel like we’ll have a good game when we come back Tuesday.”
Down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, the Nuggets certainly have the resiliency of youth on their side heading into Game 2 Tuesday at the Staples Center.
With a starting lineup that has an average age of 23.6, and 12 players who are 26 or younger, growing pains are to be expected – particularly in the playoffs. The Nuggets also know that they need to learn from their mistakes.
“(The Lakers) clearly have the experience and the knowledge to know how to come out and compete in a playoff game,” Denver shooting guard Arron Afflalo said. “Those are the things that only experience can give a team of young players. We’ll figure it out.”
Before Game 1, Karl and his coaching staff stressed the importance of starting strong, only to see the Nuggets miss 15 of 20 shots and commit five turnovers in the first quarter. The result was an early 13-point deficit that energized the Lakers and the Staples Center crowd.
Denver reserves Corey Brewer, Andre Miller and Al Harrington helped cut L.A.’s lead to four points early in the second quarter, but the Lakers led by 10 at halftime and prevented the Nuggets from establishing a consistent running game. Denver never got the deficit under double-digits in the second half.
“The first half was miserable offensively,” Karl said. “Our start was too regular-season oriented and not NBA playoff-oriented. We gave them seven or eight minutes of basketball where we weren’t aggressive.”
Led by Andrew Bynum’s 10 blocked shots, the Lakers held Denver to a season-low 35.6 percent shooting. Bynum finished with a triple-double and his blocks tied an NBA playoff record shared by Mark Eaton (1985) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1990).
“We’ve just got to keep attacking,” Nuggets rookie forward Kenneth Faried said. “Guys have to float it over (Bynum) or try to dunk on him. You can’t just go in there with a flimsy underhand lay-up. We have to go over him or around him.”
Faried was among the bright spots for Denver, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds, while Gallinari led the Nuggets with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Miller added 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Starting point guard Ty Lawson will look to bounce back in Game 2 after scoring seven points on 3-for-11 shooting Sunday.
Lawson is at his best when he can get into the paint and finish at the rim or create for others, but Bynum and the Los Angeles big men made it difficult for him to have much success in the paint.
“As much as we scout their top performers, they’re going to scout him the same way,” Afflalo said. “The things that you think you were going to get automatically suddenly aren’t going to be there. They have two 7-footers waiting for him. That’s not the easiest thing to finish over. He’ll figure it out.”
To assist their young point guard, the Denver coaches planned to watch film Sunday night and make adjustments for Game 2. Karl was confident that Lawson – who averaged 21.6 points over the last seven games of the regular-season – would bounce back.
“Ty is going to be a great, great player,” Karl said. “He’s had some great games for us, but (Sunday) was not one of them. I feel the Lakers had him as their No. 1 guy to take out in their pick-and-roll coverage. The way they covered the paint was very impressive.”
Undeterred, Lawson vowed to be better in Game 2.
“Nobody’s discouraged,” he said. “It’s the first game. Learn from it, go back and talk about it and come right back at ‘em.”