The Los Angeles Lakers have thrown the first punch, and even the second one. One more and the Denver Nuggets are on the verge of getting knocked out of the first round of the playoffs.
Through two games the Nuggets are struggling with their shot, but more than anything they are struggling with their toughness and heart. Denver is one of four teams down 2-0 in the series and outside of a spurt at the end of Game 2 the Nuggets have shown very little fight. It may be their inexperience, but it also could be the intimidated factor by L.A.
The Nuggets have let the Lakers do what they want when they wanted. Andrew Bynum has controlled the paint on both sides of the court without much challenge from the Nuggets bigs. He had 10 blocks in the first game and despite making 17 of 27 shots, Bynum – who has a career-average of .687 from the charity stripe – has only attempted four free throws in the series. A hard foul from Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos or even JaVale McGee could get Bynum out of his rhythm.
Same goes for Kobe Bryant, who is starting to find his groove. Bryant, who was averaging less than 18 points a game, has scored more than 30 points in both games. The Nuggets are allowing Bryant to do what he wants when he wants. The future Hall of Famer has dictated the pace to the series and Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer need to make Bryant’s night tough. Get him out of his comfort zone and even send him to the ground when he throws an elbow. If anything they have to respond to Bryant’s latest comments.
On blocking Al Harrington’s shot,
It’s not like he has an astonishing vertical. I didn’t have to jump too high.
On throwing an elbow at Brewer,
Look man, I’m just stronger than him,” Bryant joked. “I’m bigger.
The Lakers have won Game 1, taken Game 2 and now they are winning the war of words. Nuggets need to respond, it may not guarantee a victory but it will do a lot for Denver’s pride.