Denver looks to keep its options open as Lakers lock up interior

A day after accusing the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum of repeatedly playing illegal defense, George Karl was again handing out verbal citations.

This time, the Denver Nuggets coach targeted his own big men.

Forwards Kenneth Faried and Al Harrington and centers Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee made a combined six of 27 shots in the paint during the Lakers’ 103-88 victory Sunday at Staples Center in Game 1 of their opening playoff series.

Bynum had a lot to do with that, blocking 10 shots and altering many others. Karl said afterward that “nice illegal defense” by the Lakers center contributed to his franchise playoff record for blocks.

“He got only one illegal defense,” Karl said, referring to the technical foul called in the third quarter for a defensive three-second violation. “I saw about 30 of them.”

To avoid a repeat of the block party in Game 2 on Tuesday, Karl said, his post players would need to “make better decisions.”

“I can’t tell Al or JaVale or [Faried] or Kosta when to shoot and when not to shoot,” Karl said Monday. “But we want to take shots that have a lot better chance of going in than six for 27. We missed at least seven or eight layups, but because we attack the rim, we miss layups.

“We’ve just got to understand if we’re going to attack in five-on-five basketball, it’s got to be to pass it at least half the time or more because they’re going to be there.”

When asked how they could counteract the Lakers’ interior dominance, Denver players came up with what seemed like one theory for each of their opponent’s 15 blocks.

Forward Danilo Gallinari, who scored 19 points and was one of the few Nuggets who played well in the opener, had what sounded like the best plan: outrun Bynum and score before he can get back on defense. Easier said than done, of course.

Shooting guard Arron Afflalo said the Nuggets needed to try to keep Bynum “engaged” until they could make a pass to an open teammate.

“Just make better decisions,” Afflalo said. “He’s not going to shrink by” Tuesday.

But point guard Ty Lawson said part of Denver’s problem in Game 1 was that players failed to put themselves in position to receive passes from teammates driving to the basket. Lawson and Afflalo each made only three of 11 shots in part because easier scoring options didn’t materialize.

“We didn’t give people outlets when they got to the rim,” said Lawson, who had four shots blocked. “They were up in the air and Bynum blocked it, but there was nobody to pass to. So we have to help each other by finding the open space and giving outlets to the players going to the basket.”

Faried said it was up to the Nuggets’ big men to move more effectively to space the court and keep Bynum from clogging the interior.

“If we get outside the [paint], Bynum can get caught for three seconds because he does sit there a lot,” Faried said. “He just posts there like a tree. That’s how he got his 10 blocks, just our mistakes.”

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