Our Los Angeles Lakers completely obliterated the Denver Nuggets 103-88, with a hell of a balanced offense and remarkable defense against one of the most versatile and explosive offensive units in the NBA.
We can talk about a ton of things: how this was the Lakers’ (seemingly) first wire-to-wire win this season, in which no leads were blown; how Devin Ebanks came in to start in Metta World Peace’s absence and provided a serious offensive presence at the 3; or how Kobe Bryant went 2-for-10 to start the game and, in typical Kobe fashion, finished with 31 points because he heated up in the second half.
None of those things should dominate the narrative; in fact, the true narrative of this game is Andrew Bynum’s defensive presence (or probably Andrew Bynum’s realization that he can play defense.)
Why? Because there’s not a team in the NBA that can beat us when Bynum is engaged defensively. Today, this was the case: Along with his impressive line — Bynum went 5-for-7 from the field and scooped up 13 rebounds — he managed to swat 10 shots to tie a playoff record while being the first Laker to record a triple-double since Magic Johnson did so in 1991. (Wow.)
Denver didn’t have much of a problem getting in the paint and beating the perimeter players off the dribble and, unsurprisingly, the Lakers’ perimeter players didn’t have much of a problem funneling the Nuggets’ quick wings and guards into the paint, where Bynum (and sometimes Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol) met them with serious shot contention that forced an alteration of their shot or resulted in a straight block.
On offense, L.A. had its way. Although the bigs didn’t get a ton of shots from the paint — Bynum only had seven shots, and Gasol’s 14 shots were consisting mainly of jumpers and midrangers — the ball movement was gorgeous, forcing Denver to rotate in the ugliest way possible. Having solid midrange jump-shooters helped a heck of a lot, with Devin Ebanks being the biggest surprise of the afternoon with his 12 points off of six shots. Of course, L.A. had some nice scoring contributions from Steve Blake (who had a string of three straight three-pointers) and Ramon Sessions, who did the job of slashing and attacking the rim off the dribble. Kobe was Kobe. Even Jordan Hill had himself a day (10 points off of 5-for-10 shooting while also being a hell of a hustler and doing his part defensively).
The game never got away from the Lakers either, and though Denver cut the lead to six midway through the second half, they never sniffed single digits after that, with the Lakers’ continuously hitting daggers to put the game out of reach.
Overall, this was a good win and one that lets teams know that this is not the regular season anymore. The experiments with rotations and the ill-advised shots and poor passing are kind of a thing of the past. Sure, it was one game, but it was a damn near flawless game for L.A.
But don’t get too crazy, Los Angeles. You guys need to let Denver have two so we don’t play OKC without Metta World Peace.