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Kobe Can't Do It Alone, Drew & Pau Disappear (5.10.12)
The Los Angeles Lakers stepped onto the court and were ran out of the gym on Thursday night by the Denver Nuggets. On a night when Kobe Bryant was ailing with gastroenteritis, the Lakers desperately needed Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to step up and have big games. Well, that didn't happen. Pau went 1-10 for 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block in 29 minutes of lethargic, pathetic play. Drew went 4-11 for 11 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 blocks. Don't let Bynum's rebounding and block numbers fool you, Bynum was a non factor. Drew consistently sagged off of the screen man, failed to hedge screens, and jogged back in transition. Bynum was responsible for numerous easy buckets in transition and off of the pick and roll. Bynum's work on the boards points toward a "fake hustle." He did very well on the glass, but Bynum was routinely exposed in defensive sets.
As a whole, it seemed like the entire Lakers team came down with an ailment of some sort. LA did not come prepared to close out the series. Only Kobe showed up. Kobe turned in a "flu game" performance equivalent to Michael Jordan by dropping 13-23 for 31 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 3 turnovers. However, one key ingredient was missing. Remember the classic scene where Scottie Pippen carried MJ off the court because MJ could barely walk and was so exhausted? Well Kobe had no one to carry him, no wing man, no help. Kobe turned in a solo performance as his teammates disappeared.
Riding the energy from game five's victory in LA, the Nuggets came out scorching hot in Denver. The Nuggets raced out to a ridiculous 13-0 lead in the first three minutes. The Nuggets killed the Lakers with transition 3's.
The Lakers ran a set to establish Bynum on the first play of the game. Pau caught the ball at the near mid block. Drew stood at the near top key, and Kobe came over and set a cross/back screen, allowing Bynum to roll to the rim. Pau lobbed the pass and Bynum went up and gathered it at the far block. Instead of finishing in the air, Bynum came down, went up, and had his shot blocked by Mozgov. Bynum regathered, went up, and was blocked by Ty Lawson. He regathered again at the near block, turned baseline for the righty hook, and missed. Denver gathered the miss and Gallinari pushed ahead. With Faried streaking the court, Sessions had to pack the paint to prevent the layup because Pau trailed the play and was the last one back. Gallo kicked the ball to the wide open Lawson at the far wing 3, and Lawson drilled it. Sessions could not close out in time because he had to wait for Pau to get in the paint and pick up Faried. Following an Ebanks miss, Arron Afflalo pushed up the court. Drew and Pau trailed everyone, so the guards had to match up with the bigs in the paint. By the time the bigs got into the lane, Afflalo kicked the ball out to Gallinari at the far side 3, and Gallinari swished the open 3. Then Kobe missed a jumper. Lawson grabbed the board and pushed up the far side. Running full speed, Lawson split Pau and Kobe and sped past the rest of the Lakers for an open layup in transition. Kobe missed another jumper, and Lawson pushed up the near side. Utilizing a five-on-three advantage, Lawson hit Gallo at the near side 3. Gallo held the ball for a second as Ebanks closed on him. With Pau and Drew, once again, trailing everyone, Kobe had to pick up both Mozgov and Faried at the rim. Gallo swung the ball back to Lawson at the near wing 3, and Lawson sank the open shot. Bynum finally got into the lane once Lawson caught the pass, leaving no time for Kobe to close out. Faried closed out the run following a pick and roll setup from Gallo to Mozgov to an open flashing Faried at the rim for a dunk, making the score 13-0 with 8:51 to go.
Kobe closed the gap, but the defensive mistakes continued for the rest of the quarter. Kobe hit an open jumper from the top of the key for the first LA bucket of the game. Bynum followed with a swat and Kobe created contact for a trip to the line and sank both. Following the free throws, Lawson brought the ball up the far side. Lawson hit Mozgov at the near top key, and Mozgov handed it off to Lawson. Sessions went under the screen, and Bynum didn't hedge the pick. Lawson hit the wide open 3 from the near wing for his third straight bucket. Denver followed this with the same set. This time Lawson hit Faried at the near elbow. Lawson ran over for the handoff, but Faried faked the handoff and attacked right and into the lane. Faried hit the running layup over Pau. Following an Ebanks made jumper, Bynum was burned down the court by Mozgov. Bynum started with a two step advantage, but Mozgov out ran him as Lawson brought the ball up the near side. Once he got to half court, Lawson hit Mozgov in the lane for the easy dunk ahead of everyone. Following that, Kobe missed a jumper, and Gallo brought the ball up the near side. With Pau trailing everyone, Kobe matched up with Gallo to stop the ball. Sessions matched up with Lawson at the far wing, but Pau signaled for Sessions to match up with the open Afflalo at the near side. Gallo noticed Sessions vacating Lawson, so he sent the skip pass to the far wing. Pau lost sight of the ball as he turned his head and Lawson drilled the open 3. Why Pau would signal Sessions to leave the hottest guy in the building is bewildering. Sessions should have said "F-you" and told Pau to hustle back. Never leave the hottest guy in the gym. Never.