The Lakers took Game 2 from the Nuggets 104-100 on Tuesday, and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series in the process. Kobe Bryant was spectacular for the majority of the night, and finished with 38 points. Andrew Bynum had a career playoff high of 27 points, to go along with nine rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Pau Gasol was once again more than solid, and he and Jordan Hill once again helped control the glass with 10 rebounds apiece.
Despite all of that, however, this game was nowhere near as easy as Sunday’s win to open the series. The Lakers had leads of as many as nine points in each of the first two quarters, and went on a monster 14-0 run that lasted more than six minutes near the start of the third quarter that pushed the lead to 19.
Given the way the series started, it would have been a perfect time for the Nuggets to fold — only they didn’t. Denver began to get the tempo they wanted, led by Ty Lawson attacking the paint and getting to the rim for easy buckets. Lawson had 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and Denver had the lead all the way back down to five near the beginning of the fourth.
As the Lakers pushed it back to 13, Denver once again fought back, this time with a quick 8-0 run that had the game once again within reach. It was a four-point game with under three minutes to play, and Lawson missed a three that would have cut it to one.
It honestly never felt like the Lakers would lose; the four-point lead seemed like one that was much larger. But the point is, the Nuggets got going a little bit in this one. They were able to get the tempo they wanted at times, and held the Lakers to just over 37 percent shooting in the second half, while clawing back into the game multiple times. L.A. was able to hold on thanks to the team’s size advantage down low, and the fact that 13 second-half offensive rebounds led to 15 second-chance points.
It is more than possible that some of the positive things that Denver was able to do in Game 2 will carry over, and that they’ll shoot much better at home and be able to force the Lakers into playing at a faster pace than they’d like, and for more than just the spurts that we saw in Game 2.
It’s more likely, though, that the combination of the Lakers’ bigs and the way that Bryant has been able to perform will be too much for the Nuggets in this series, and they might not even be able to do what they need to for 48 minutes in order to win a single game — even as the series shifts to Denver for the next two.