Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/2/12

LOS ANGELES -- Denver Nuggets coach George Karl has won the seventh-most games of any coach in NBA history, so he can tell when a team is ready for the playoffs and when one isn't.

Karl's inexperienced Nuggets weren't prepared in their postseason opener Sunday against the Lakers, but they vowed to come back Tuesday night at Staples Center with more speed and aggressiveness.

They did so only sporadically in a Game 2 that left the Lakers looking like NBA Finals threats again. Los Angeles never lost its early lead and won again, 104-100, taking a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

The Nuggets started slowly but eventually found some playoff aggressiveness with the help of point guard Ty Lawson's 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

That wasn't as much production as the Lakers got from Kobe Bryant (38 points on 15-of-29 shooting) and Andrew Bynum (playoff-career-high 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting). The duo carried a Los Angeles offense that made just two of 15 attempts from 3-point range.

Karl looks at the Lakers' roster and sees future Hall of Famer Bryant, new All-Star Bynum and past All-Star Pau Gasol and said: "We're not going to beat the Lakers unless we get five or six guys playing at a high level."

Lawson stepped up, but Danilo Gallinari shot 5-for-18 from the field while scoring 13 points, and super-sub Al Harrington was spotty again with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

Lakers guard Ramon Sessions hit a floater with 1:14 to play, boosting Los Angeles' lead to 100-94 after a 3-pointer from Gallinari gave the Nuggets renewed hope.

Karl all but guaranteed a fast start for his team in pregame comments to reporters. Instead, the Nuggets missed their first six shots and fell behind, 12-3, at which point Karl called timeout.

Among the early gaffes by the Nuggets were leaving Kobe Bryant unguarded on one possession, leading to his dunk, and setting up their defense to allow a 2-on-1 fast break for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on another, with Bynum dunking.

Karl's timeout did help Denver refocus itself.

With better tenacity on the offensive rebounds and trying harder to get into the paint, the Nuggets cut the Lakers' lead to 14-13 midway through the first quarter.

Bryant took advantage of fewer double-team defenses running at him compared to Game 1 and poured in 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first quarter. The Lakers shot 60.9 percent from the field for a 32-25 lead.

The Nuggets, the NBA's highest-scoring regular-season team at 104 points per game, were able to stay close by keeping the pace faster than in the game Sunday. Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions didn't help his team's cause by forcing quick shots, resulting in a timeout by Lakers coach Mike Brown to slow the Lakers down.

The Nuggets capped the first half with a put-back from rookie power forward Kenneth Faried, and it was Denver's 18-4 advantage in second-chance points that kept them close. The Lakers still led, 55-48, at the break.

NOTES: Lakers forward Jordan Hill played his usual role in the rotation as the first big man off the bench despite news coming out Monday about a felony assault charge against him in Houston. Said Hill: "I was definitely shocked like everybody else." He had a team-high seven rebounds in 13 first-half minutes. ... Karl complained after Denver's Game 1 loss that Bynum was called for only one 3-second violation on defense for staying in the paint. One was called in the first half of Game 2, but Denver scored before play could be stopped. ... Bryant is auctioning off the mask he wore for 11 games this season while playing through a broken nose, with the proceeds benefiting the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. ... The Lakers again played without Metta World Peace, who still has four more games to miss in fulfilling his NBA suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden.

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