Just good defense or were the Lakers cheating in Game 1?

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

So, exactly how did the Lakers muzzle the Denver Nuggets in Game 1, limiting them to only 88 points on 35.6 percent shooting Sunday afternoon at Staples Center? The Lakers said it was a good defense; the Nuggets said it was cheating.

Denver coach George Karl said Lakers center Andrew Bynum was guilty of playing an illegal zone defense on “about 30″ possessions, which helped to account for his NBA-record tying 10 blocked shots.

“If people cut through the lane, you can touch them and you can stand there the whole time,” a smiling Bynum said when told of Karl’s accusation after the Lakers’ practice Monday in El Segundo. “That’s part of the game.”

The Nuggets seemed determined to take the ball at Bynum and fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol, and they paid the price. The Lakers blocked a playoff franchise record 15 shots and were never threatened late en route to a 103-88 victory.

The Lakers did an especially fine job of containing Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, who averaged a team-leading 16.4 points during the regular season but scored only seven points on 3-for-11 shooting with two assists.

Additionally, the Lakers limited the Nuggets to only a handful of fast breaks in Game 1. Denver, the league’s top scoring team during the regular season with an average of 104.1 points, scored only 19 points on the run.

The Lakers held the Nuggets to 99 points or fewer in five games this season. The Lakers won three of four games during the regular season, limiting the Nuggets to 44.3 percent shooting. Denver averaged 47.6 percent shooting during the regular season.

“When we defend, we’re a very, very good team,” said Bynum, who also had 10 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. “When we try to outscore teams, it’s a toss-up. … Our guys did a great job of getting back. (Denver) didn’t get those quick outlet passes.”

Bynum said he expects the Nuggets to attempt to force the Lakers to play at a much faster pace tonight in Game 2, adding, “I think they’re going to try to speed the game up more than anything and make it a track meet.”

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