Too much Kobe Bryant tonight. Gotta hand it to him.
I hate moral victories. Most of the time they serve no purpose and are nothing more than platitudes we tell ourselves to make things "better". However, the Nuggets played a far superior game to the one they played in Game 1, and now will bring the series back to Denver down 0-2, but they should be feeling slightly better about themselves.
What an odd dichotomy.
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way. Kobe Bryant had himself a heck of a game, finishing with 38 points. Kobe's first half was tremendous. It was one of those games that remind you Kobe Bryant is still a great baller and is dangerous every time he touches the ball. Andrew Bynum had another great offensive game with 27 points and 9 rebounds, but he wasn't nearly the defensive threat he was in Game 1. Kenneth Faried had a mixed bag game, but had an incredibly costly turnover that led to an And-1 by Andrew Bynum late in the game when the Nuggets had a chance to close within four points. The Rook will learn, but that was a tough one.
Outside of Bryant and Bynum, the Nuggets actually did a better job all around against the Lakers. While the Nuggets individual shooting was horrid, particularly from deep (I'm looking at you Danilo Gallinari and Arron Afflalo) these weren't contested hoops, they were open. If the Nuggets knock a slightly higher percentage of them down, they are closer or even win the game. It looks like George Karl properly adjusted after having poor Kosta Koufos in there and left JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov to guard the post. This was a better decision.
Overall, I'm happy that Ty Lawson came to play. He finished with 25 points and was clearly the Nuggets' best offensive threat. Ty playing better helped the whole team out in numerous ways. Now, it's up to these Nuggets shooters to hit a better percentage of open shots and this thing is a brand new ball game. JaVale McGee played MUCH better than in Game 2 and had 5 points 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. Mozgov put in some good work and sufficiently bothered Andrew "I only have one foul in 8 quarters" Bynum to distrupt the offense slightly. Good work and great adjustment by Karl.
Despite the result of this game, there are many positives to take away. The Nuggets didn't play their best game, but were in it until the end (outside of a brief mental lapse in the third quarter that left the Nuggets down by 19 at one point) and it will be interesting to see where this leaves things when the series shifts back to Denver. I look for the Nuggets to attack more and the outside shooting will improve.
Moral victories suck, but sometimes they give you a nice boost for the next game. I hate that the Nuggets lost, but maybe they learned more in this game than they did all year?
Go Nuggets!! Game 3 is on Friday.