Bynum's triple-double leads Lakers past Nuggets
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, puts up a shot as Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee defends during the first half of an NBA first-round playoff basketball game, Sunday, April 29, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) / Mark J. Terrill
Bynum, the Lakers' All-Star center coming off his best regular season, also had 10 points and 13 rebounds while incredibly blocking 11 percent of the Nuggets' 90 shots.
While Bynum had the Lakers' first playoff triple-double since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA finals, fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the playoff-tested Lakers, who never trailed while forcing the NBA's highest-scoring team to play Los Angeles' preferred half-court style.
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points for the sixth-seeded Nuggets, but the NBA's second-youngest playoff roster struggled to run. Andre Miller had 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while helping out Ty Lawson, Denver's leading scorer, who managed just seven points while failing to make a shot in the first three quarters.
Bynum blocked eight shots in the first three quarters before surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise-record nine blocks in the fourth. He swatted Timofey Mozgov's shot for No. 10 in the closing minutes to equal the NBA record set by Utah's Mark Eaton on April 26, 1985, and matched by Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon on April 29, 1990.
Ramon Sessions had 14 points and five assists in his first career playoff game for the third-seeded Lakers. Largely thanks to Bynum's defensive dominance, Los Angeles avoided the embarrassment of last season's playoff-opening loss to New Orleans, never getting into trouble while opening the Lakers' third playoff meeting with Denver in five years.
Devin Ebanks scored all of his 12 points in the first half while starting his first career playoff game in place of suspended Metta World Peace. The Lakers didn't miss their defensive stopper while forcing most of Denver's key contributors into poor games.
Bryant scored 23 points in the second half to open the 15th playoff campaign of his 16-year career. The third-leading scorer in NBA playoff history, trailing only Michael Jordan and Abdul-Jabbar, hadn't played in a week, sitting out the Lakers' last game alongside Gasol and Bynum to keep his high-mileage legs fresh for the playoffs.
Sessions and Ebanks both made their playoff debuts, while Mike Brown coached the Lakers in their first playoff game at Staples Center, which opened in 1999, without Phil Jackson commanding their bench from his oversized chair.
The Lakers won three of four in the clubs' regular-season series largely by limiting the Nuggets' vaunted transition game and dominating inside. They limited Denver to just seven fast-break points in the first half, and the Nuggets never found their stride.
Los Angeles jumped to an early 13-point lead with three 3-pointers from Steve Blake and a big first half from Ebanks, the second-year pro who has rarely played consistent minutes in his NBA career. Denver coach George Karl acknowledged he didn't know how to pronounce Ebanks' last name before the game, but Ebanks got his attention with 5-for-6 shooting while running the break at Denver's tempo.
NOTES: Bynum also blocked seven shots on June 6, 2010, in Game 2 of the NBA finals against Boston. ... The Lakers handed out white giveaway T-shirts reading "One at a Time," but in a Staples Center tradition, most of the crowd declined to wear them. ... Fans in attendance included Megan Fox, David Beckham, Meagan Good and Brian Austin Green.
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