LOS ANGELES – First, the Nuggets responded behind closed doors, in their locker room as coach George Karl used the regrettable claim by Lakers center Andrew Bynum as part of the final pre-game instructions to the team. Then, they made the rebuttal where the entire world could read the statement, before a packed Staples Center and a national-television audience.
The Nuggets may have played with the same energy anyway, just as they had in the Game 3 win and several stretches of the three defeats. As Kobe Bryant said in dismissing the impact of the comments: “Did it pump them up? Probably. Would they have come out and played with that kind of energy anyway? Probably.” But for Bynum to offer any bulletin-board material at this stage, with the Lakers on the verge of ending the series and looking to the second-round showdown with the Thunder, is the latest head-shaking moment of the first round from the All-Star center.
“In general, I think he’s wrong,” Karl said. “I think it’s hard to win. I’ve been blessed to win a few series, and it’s hard to win the next game and the hardest thing in the world is to win the fourth game. I don’t care who you’re playing. If it’s the eighth seed, it’s hard to win that fourth game. You get to know each other, the euphoria of being a human being is when you win, in your head, there’s a little bit of a letdown. His feelings on my close-outs are a little bit different of me being in them. I told my players that.”
It doesn’t stop there. Not only did Bynum make the Nuggets feel disrespected, backing up the assertion came with decent production, the 16 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, his counterpart, JaVale McGee, continued to emerge as one of the Denver stars of the series, getting 21 points and 14 rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench.
“It is bulletin-board material,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “If a guy wants to say that, then in my opinion he’s got to back it up. If you’re going to step out and say that, he’s got to back it up. But we all have to get his back and try to help him back it up.”
Did Bynum back it up?
“We did not as a team,” Brown answered. “JaVale McGee had 21 and 14. He impacted the game. We didn’t do a good job with our team defense, we didn’t do a good job with our team offense. You’ve got to give Denver for winning the game. It is what it is.”
It is a bad loss. It is a 3-2 series. It is the first round, still.