It wasn’t quite as easy as the first game but it still wasn’t that difficult as the Lakers took a commanding 2-0 in the first-round playoff series with a 104-100 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The next game in the best-of-seven Western Conference series is Friday night in Denver.
The Lakers led by as many as 19 points but squandered the lead, allowing Denver to get as close as four with 3:20 to play, again with 1:55 to play and with 30.1 seconds left. But Andre Miller’s foul with 20.9 seconds sent Ramon Sessions to the line and he made both free throws to give the Lakers a six-point lead. Ty Lawson cut it to four with 14.1 seconds left and the Lakers called time out.
Here’s where Lakers fans were probably happy that Metta World Peace wasn’t there for the inbounds pass. World Peace, serving the third of a seven-game suspension, had one of the most controversial plays late in the season when he all but tossed the ball away at the end.
But the inbounds play went without incident and the Nuggets were forced to foul with 9.4 seconds to play and Kobe Bryant made both free throws. He was six of seven from the line and finished with 38 points on 15-of-29 shooting.
Kenneth Faried made the final basket for the Nuggets, who never led.
Still, the game never really seemed in doubt but the crowd stayed for the finish, unlike Sunday afternoon.
Bryant, as usual, came up with a basket when the Lakers needed, giving him an 83rd 30-plus point playoff game. Bryant played with strength on Tuesday, much different than Sunday when he allowed others to be the star.
Sunday’s star, Andrew Bynum, played exceptionally well on Tuesday although he didn’t get his second triple-double. Bynum finished with 27 points and nine rebounds.
The Lakers shot 43 of 96 (44.8%) compared to the Nuggets' 40 of 91 (44%).
The Lakers bench remained a sore point, scoring only eight points compared to 35 for the Nuggets. But when you have Bryant and Bynum, how much do you need from the bench?