- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- After seeing his team shoot at a worse clip (36.5 percent) than it had in all 66 regular season games and watching Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum tie the all-time NBA playoff record with 10 blocks, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl thought the Lakers' great defense was aided by poor officiating.
"(Bynum) was playing nice illegal defense," Karl said in his postgame press conference after the Lakers won Game 1 of their first round series against the Nuggets 103-88 on Sunday. "He zoned up good. I think we got one illegal defense (called against the Lakers). I saw about 30."
Bynum was called for a defensive three-second violation, or illegal defense, with 6:20 remaining in the third quarter with the Lakers up 64-47. According to the NBA rule book, a defensive player cannot spend more than three seconds in the lane while not actively guarding an opponent. "Actively guarding" means the defender is within arm's length of an opponent and in a guarding position.
Karl said he repeatedly pointed out the violation to the referees throughout the game when he felt like the Lakers were practicing illegal defense, but didn't expect it to get the whistle.
"It just isn't going to be called," Karl said. "We know it's not going to be called. It's just not a thing that's called. We play too fast sometimes and we don't let the call happen and then other times, the action creates the vision of the referees. (Bynum) was sensational defensively. Pau Gasol was good out front and they did a great job protecting the basket."
Gasol had two swats as well as the Lakers set a franchise playoff record for blocked shots with 15.
"We've played against that type of guy before. Shot blockers, we have to attack but you have to respect and if you attack and respect, you will find shots," Karl said. "Tonight, the shot blocker won the game for them probably."
It was the second time in the last three games the Lakers held an opponent under 40 percent shooting, after the Oklahoma City Thunder connected on just 36.6 percent of its shots in the Lakers' 114-106 double-overtime victory last Sunday.
"Today we were very good defensively, we were very active," Kobe Bryant said after the game. "We contested everything."
When informed of Karl's illegal defense comments, Bryant smiled and said, "Of course he did."
Karl ultimately admitted that the Nuggets wouldn't have won the game even with more illegal defense calls in their favor.
"I'm not going to make excuses," Karl said. "We weren't good enough to even come close tonight. But that's the great part about NBA playoff games. We'll learn, adjust and play harder."