April 24, 2008
Fast Breaks: Nuggets-Lakers
By Arash Markazi
Game 2   Leaders
Lakers lead series 2-0   Points Rebounds Assists
122 107
• After sleepwalking through the first half of Game 1, Kobe Bryant (right) wasted little time in making his presence felt in Game 2, scoring 20 of his 49 points in the first quarter. He was two points shy of the franchise playoff high for a quarter and one point shy of his career high for a playoff game. Bryant, who scored four points on 2-of-10 shooting in the first half Sunday, hit eight of his first 10 shots Wednesday and took advantage of every overmatched defender the Nuggets sent his way from Kenyon Martin to Nene, who played for the first time in nearly three weeks, as the Nuggets attempted to neutralize Pau Gasol down low.

The game plan worked, sort of, as Gasol, who scored 36 points in Game 1, was held to 18. Nuggets coach George Karl admitted that shutting down the Lakers' Big Three of Bryant, Gasol and Lamar Odom would be nearly impossible. ''You can direct what they are going to beat you by,'' he said. ''Anytime you are playing a team with so many weapons, you're trying to confuse them and keep the confidence level of some of them under control, and then you better have something to handle Kobe in the last five minutes of the game.''

• The effortless one-touch passes the Lakers used to run up and down the floor Sunday were nullified for the most part by the Nuggets in Game 2. Denver closed the lanes and wasn't simply watching all five Lakers touch the ball before an easy layup or dunk. Denver, nicknamed ''Enver'' for its lack of ''D'' by Charles Barkley, still gave up far too many easy shots, but at least they didn't look like the Washington Generals to the Lakers' Harlem Globetrotters on Wednesday. Of course, their concentration on the interior opened up the rest of the floor for Bryant. ''I anticipated there would be better defensive closeouts on both sides,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ''When we played the first game, we hadn't seen each other since January so there was some personnel adjustments that needed to be made.''

• The first adjustment the Nuggets made was inserting Linas Kleiza, who scored 23 points off the bench Sunday, into the starting lineup for point guard Anthony Carter. While the move gave the Nuggets an initial spark, he scored just 10 points and left the Nuggets with only J.R. Smith (17 points) to contribute off the bench. The Lakers' bench was led by Luke Walton, who has had an unexpectedly solid playoffs so far after an inconsistent season, scoring 18 of the team's 31 bench points Wednesday and 34 of the bench's 63 points during the series.

• Coby Karl played the final two minutes of the game, marking the first time a son had played against his father in an NBA playoff game. ''There's no greater gift that basketball has given me than watching my son be an NBA player," George Karl said. "Unfortunately, I have to watch him be a Laker.''

• Jackson traditionally wears a championship ring throughout the playoffs as a reminder to his team of what it is playing for. Jackson, who has claimed nine titles as a coach, is wearing the ring from the last championship he won with the Lakers, in 2002. ''I usually wear the last one we won but I hate wearing this thing,'' Jackson said. ''It's been worn now too often. It's been four years in a row now that I've had to wear this one. It's time for a change.''


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