If at first you don't succeed, try again.
The Nuggets threw a dizzying array of double teams at the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, but he just punished them in their 103-88 Game 1 victory Sunday over Denver with his own block party. Denver Coach George Karl felt the literal and figurative rejection, causing him to try plan B. Work the officials.
"He was playing nice illegal defense," Karl told reporters, including the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman. "He was zoned up good. I think we got one illegal defense [call] — I saw about 30."
The Lakers laughed off Karl's claim just as quickly as Bynum blocked a playoff-high 10 shots against Denver.
Kobe Bryant brushed off Karl's comments, saying, "Of course he did." Bynum matter-of-factly argued, "If people cut through the lane, you can touch them or stay in there the whole time. That's part of the game." And Lakers Coach Mike Brown stared into a sea of video cameras to offer a personal message.
"George, you may be doing the right thing following Phil Jackson's lead," Brown said.
Yup, the Lakers well remember how the Zen Master tweaked a player or called out officials during the postseason. Those were among the many tricks Jackson had in winning 11 NBA championship rings. With Bynum's focus on defense continuously evolving, perhaps Karl is hoping the Lakers center takes the bait.
"He's a veteran coach and has been to the playoffs a long time," Brown said of Karl, who made his lone NBA Finals with the former Seattle SuperSonics in 1996. "He's got to work the officials in a lot of different ways. He's just trying to work the officials. I applaud him for doing it."
Brown hasn't matched Jackson's approach of giving subtle digs to players, officials and reporters. But he has publicly questioned the NBA's failure this season to give Blake Griffin a flagrant foul for pushing rookie guard Darius Morris and shoving Lakers forward Pau Gasol in the back. The latter incident eventually prompted the NBA to give Griffin a flagrant foul. Brown has also earned two ejections this year for arguing calls.
Yet he sounds skeptical that such pressure works.
"I know I've said stuff before. Does it change things the next time we play?" Brown said. "I don't think so. If Phil's done it, Phil has 10 or 11 of them, he has the most. So it has to work to a certain degree, I'm guessing. But I don't know."
That's why Brown didn't take the bait when the media asked him about critical observations regarding Denver's defense, other than that its double-team strategy on Bynum backfired.
"We just have to keep trying to do what we do," Brown said. "If we can, we'll keep giving ourselves a chance to win."
And in Karl's eyes, that involves playing illegal defense.
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