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Denver aims to circumvent Lakers ‘illegal defense’

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Denver Nuggets still believe Andrew Bynum and the Lakers play illegal defense all the time.

The Nuggets also realize it’s on them to make the 7-foot shot-blocker’s job a whole lot tougher, or their playoff stay will be short.

”He’s not going to shrink by tomorrow,” Arron Afflalo said Monday before the Nuggets’ practice.

After getting one-sixth of all their shots blocked in a Game 1 loss, the Nuggets are redoubling their efforts to force their speedy tempo on the Lakers in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

Denver figures it’s the only way to prevent Bynum from camping out underneath the basket alongside fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol, who blocked two shots of his own. Yet Bynum also spends enough time parked in the paint to earn several parking violations, according to Denver coach George Karl, who claims Los Angeles played ”about 30” illegal defense possessions against the Nuggets’ layup-dependent offense.

”Yeah, but we help him a lot, too,” said Denver forward Kenneth Faried, who had 10 points and eight rebounds in his NBA playoff debut. ”We step inside, and he basically gets 3 clear seconds (in the paint). We just have to get back to what we’re used to doing, just getting up and down the floor and enjoying ourselves. … If we get outside the (paint), Bynum can get caught for 3 seconds, because he does sit there a lot, just posts there like a tree and blocks a lot. He’s got to move with us, and that takes him out of the middle.”

The Lakers mostly rolled their eyes at the Nuggets’ cries over the nebulous rules governing how long a defensive player can stay in the paint. Bynum has patrolled the lane aggressively throughout his first All-Star year, and Kobe Bryant said his 24-year-old teammate has ”obviously progressed tremendously defensively from the first part of the season.”

When asked about Karl’s accusations, Bynum conceals a smile while pointing out how the Nuggets’ up-tempo offense allows him to do his job.

”If people cut through the lane, you can touch them and you can stand there the whole time,” Bynum said after the Lakers’ workout at their training complex in El Segundo. ”That’s part of the game.”

The Lakers are quite familiar with coaches using gamesmanship to get the attention of officials and opponents with sharp public statements in the postseason – but it was usually former Lakers coach Phil Jackson who was doing the needling and prodding.

With a few days to prepare, new coach Mike Brown put together a game plan that led to a remarkably smooth win in his Los Angeles playoff debut. Karl’s gamesmanship elicited a chuckle from Brown, who hasn’t played this game much in Cleveland or Los Angeles.

”He’s a veteran coach,” Brown said. ”He’s been in the playoffs a long time. He’s just got to try to work the officials in different ways, and that’s what he’s doing. I applaud him for that. … George is maybe doing the right thing, following Phil Jackson’s lead. He’s got 11 rings.”

The Lakers didn’t miss suspended forward Metta World Peace in the opener, but now backup big man Jordan Hill also is apparently in trouble over an assault charge filed in an alleged confrontation with his girlfriend before Hill joined the Lakers in mid-March.

Hill had 10 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1, making a significant contribution for a third straight game with the Lakers. Hill issued a brief statement and vaguely answered a few questions Monday, saying he doesn’t expect to miss any practices or games with the Lakers despite a looming court date in Houston on Tuesday.

”I’ll be here, but we’ll see,” Hill said of his ability to play in Game 2.

Even if Hill is unavailable, veterans Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy could step in to face a Denver lineup that’s usually much smaller than the Lakers.

”What pleased me the most is the amount of energy we played with,” said Bryant, who scored 31 points. ”We were pretty tenacious on the defensive end, very active.”

Los Angeles held the Nuggets to 35.6 percent shooting with a dismaying number of missed layups. Leading scorer Ty Lawson didn’t make a shot until the fourth quarter, finishing with seven points as no Denver player made more than half of his shots except Jordan Hamilton, who was 1 for 1.

Denver is still confident in its transition game, and the Lakers have struggled against fast-breaking teams all season. They figure the only way to score in the paint against Bynum is to get to the hoop first.

”We have to be more aware when he’s in the paint, and we have to try to make the extra passes better,” said Danilo Gallinari, who led the Nuggets with 19 points. ”We have to move the ball, and shoot before he gets there.”