Among the highlights of my breakdown on the Lakers' 103-97 victory Friday over the Denver Nuggets:
- Lakers Coach Mike Brown left the game for what the team called "personal reasons." Assistant coach John Kuester filled in and kept the same rotations. Kobe Bryant appeared valuable on the sideline, talking with assistants and teammates at length on what he saw on the floor.
- Bryant is walking pain free. But before he can play he has to run pain free and jump pain free. That's he may also sit out Sunday against the Mavericks.
- The Lakers officially clinched the playoffs. Yay. The Lakers didn't have any champagne celebrations and hardly anyone asked them about it.
- The Lakers have usually had letdown games following a signature win. They allowed Denver to chip away at double-digit leads, but it's significant they held on to a win after an impressive performance Wednesday against San Antonio.
- Andrew Bynum, despite facing double and even triple teams, dropped 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting. He'd better get used to it. Opponents' strategies won't change, particulalrly if Bryant remains sidelined.
- Matt Barnes' 24 points marked his career-high in almost two seasons as a Laker. He provided the usual hustle plays and hit timely shots as well.
- Metta World Peace is showing his sudden offensive surge isn't a fluke. He may not always score a lot of points, but he's having a direct impact on the game.