Bryant seemed to push his illness to the side while he was on the court. When a timeout was called with 3:16 left, he had brought the Lakers back to within seven points at 45-38. The Lakers as a team were playing well in almost no category, but they were still in the game. At that point, Bryant had 19 points. No other Laker had more than five, and the inside game seemed almost like an afterthought.
Andrew Bynum scored only three points in the half, his first basket a hook with 5:38 to play in the second quarter. He did have 10 rebounds. Pau Gasol had not made his presence known. He scored two points in the first half on one-for-five shooting.
But with the Lakers shooting only 42% and featuring virtually no game inside, they still trailed by only nine.
Bryant made seven of 13 shots for his 19 points.
Ty Lawson led Denver, also with 19 points, while Danilo Gallinari added 10 for the Nuggets, who were shooting 51%.
Denver 30, Lakers 20 (end of first quarter)
Would the good Andrew Bynum show up or the bad Andrew Bynum? Would Kobe Bryant, who missed the shoot-around earlier because of a stomach virus and had an IV to hydrate himself before the game, be good to go or limited? Would Pau Gasol demonstrate any playoff intensity?
The answers came quickly and weren’t good for the Lakers. Denver jumped to an 11-0 lead. The Lakers tried to go inside to Bynum, who looked sluggish and couldn't score. Bryant missed short on two outside shots, and when Ty Lawson went coast to coast for the 11-0 lead, the Lakers took a timeout.
Bryant finally got the Lakers on the board after another Denver bucket on a jumper to make it 13-2 with 8:25 to play in the period, but at that point, Denver had gotten every loose ball and was getting downcourt much more quickly than the Lakers.
Bryant generated some offense after that, and when a timeout was called with 2:33 left, the Nuggets held a 27-16 lead. The Lakers at that point were shooting 33%, the Nuggets 58%.
The Lakers' star guard finished the quarter with 10 points on four-of-eight shooting and looked to be his usual self for much of the quarter. He was the Lakers’ offense.
Lawson was the early sparkplug for the Nuggets with 15 points on five-for-seven shooting; he made all four of his three-point attempts.
Bynum, double-teamed whenever he got the ball down low, was largely taken out of the offense and missed all five of his shots, though he did have nine rebounds. Three were on the offensive end but he couldn’t convert any of them. Gasol was invisible, scoreless with no rebounds.
More questions: Does Kobe Bryant have the stamina to keep it up and bring the Lakers back?
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