LOS ANGELES (AP) — A day before Andrew Bynum produced one of the most eye-popping defensive performances in NBA playoff history, he spoke up to his Lakers teammates about the importance of getting off to a good start in their championship quest.
With an NBA record-tying 10 blocked shots, the 7-foot All-Star center put the Lakers on the good foot — and the Denver Nuggets on their heels.
Kobe Bryant scored 31 points, Bynum posted the Lakers' first playoff triple-double in 21 years, and Los Angeles thoroughly controlled the tempo in a playoff-opening 103-88 victory Sunday.
Despite a few well-chronicled fluctuations in his motivation and discipline this year, the seventh-year pro had perfect focus in Game 1, capping his utter dominance in the paint with his record-tying block of Timofey Mozgov with 3:02 to play. Bynum also had 10 points and 13 rebounds before checking out to an ovation.
"It's the only way really possible for me to get a triple-double — through blocked shots," Bynum said of his first career triple-double. "If I play good D, we'll win games. I think I'm just going to be as aggressively as I can defensively to contest their shots. ... You've got to win Game 1. Statistics are against the teams that lose Game 1, especially on the home court."
Game 2 is Tuesday night.
Just how dominant were Bynum and his tall teammates against the NBA's highest-scoring team? Bynum blocked 11 percent of the Nuggets' 90 shots, and with 15 total blocks, Lakers swatted one of every six Denver shots, separating the Nuggets from any hope of a late rally.
"His timing was impeccable today," Bryant said of Bynum. "He really understood the rhythm of their offensive players. He was just there at the exact moment, either to change or block the shot."
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 Denver to play Los Angeles' preferred half-court style.
Bynum blocked eight shots in the first three quarters before surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's franchise-record nine blocks in the fourth. He eventually equaled 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.
"We've got to find a way to score before he gets in the paint, because he's impressive," said Danilo Gallinari, who led Denver with 19 points.
For coach Mike Brown, who has mostly enjoyed his first year riding the roller coaster of Bynum's emotions and motivation, the game showed why these Lakers could go deep into June.
"He can control a game without shooting a single shot," Brown said. "He has 10 blocks, but I'd be curious to know how many (shots) he changed. He changed a gazillion shots in the paint, and that's what Denver is very good at. He was phenomenal tonight, and if he continues to play like he did, being the type of monster he was tonight patrolling that paint, we'll be playing a long time."