Andrew Bynum saved the day and Derek Fisher had a hustle play but the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets the hard way.
They could have won easily if their long-distance shooting hadn’t been so deplorable.
They added free agents Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy during the off-season to try to stretch defenses but were stretched thinner than necessary Saturday after making two of 24 three-point shots (8.3%) in a 92-89 victory.
“I can go down the line,” Coach Mike Brown said, rattling off players’ names and their askew shooting stats. “I thought we had some pretty good looks.”
Steve Blake missed all six of his three-point shots. Kobe Bryant misfired on five tries. Kapono made one of four.
Metta World Peace came back to Earth after averaging 14 points in his previous three games. He was scoreless, missing all three of his three-point shots and a left-handed dunk.
The Lakers were 18th in the league before the game in three-point accuracy (31.3%) but will fall lower into the pack.
The Devin Ebanks experiment ended Saturday.
The second-year player started four games but was replaced by veteran Matt Barnes against Denver after averaging five points and 3.3 rebounds.
“I like the energy Matt had brought us,” Brown said. “I wanted to get Matt a shot.”
Ebanks went from starter to zero minutes against Denver. Barnes had seven points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. He will get the call again in Sunday’s rematch against Denver, but there’s no guarantee beyond that.
“I may start either one at any given time,” Brown said.
Bynum’s return from a four-game suspension meant fewer minutes for Josh McRoberts and a lot less playing time for Murphy.
They each averaged more than 25 minutes in the first four games, but McRoberts was clipped to 22 minutes Saturday and Murphy played only six minutes, never entering the game again after the first quarter.
“They won’t play as many minutes as they have been playing,” Brown said. “It’s my job to try to get them on the floor.”
McRoberts had six points and six rebounds. Murphy was scoreless with one rebound.
Brown’s first job in the NBA was with the Nuggets as an unpaid intern in the summer of 1992. He ended up getting a $15,000 salary as a video coordinator later that year with the Nuggets and was thrilled with it.
“I did whatever they asked. I landscaped our assistant GM’s yard,” Brown said, setting the scene by mentioning the difficulty of hauling away rocks with his uncooperative maroon pickup truck. “I did it all. Trust me.”