The Lakers visited the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night to take on the Denver Nuggets. Both the Nuggets and Lakers played yesterday and are finishing back to backs. The Lakers finally turned the corner and came in riding a five game win streak. Looking to follow up on the big win yesterday, the Lakers had no easy task in taking on a superb home team in their building.
The Lakers came out with Steve Nash at point guard, Darius Morris at shooting guard, Kobe Bryant at small forward, Pau Gasol at power forward, and Dwight Howard at center.
The game got off to a strange start when the Nuggets won the tip and an odd clear path foul was called against Steve Nash. Kenneth Faried made only one free throw before Kobe responded on the other end. On the very next play, Steve Nash superbly executed a pick and roll with Gasol, reminding fans what they had missed for 24 games. Another Nugget turnover was followed as Darius Morris rewarded Dwight Howard with an alley-oop. The game went back and forth as Dwight Howard and Nugget workhorse Kenneth Faried traded offensive rebounds.
The player whom the Lakers needed to worry about most in Ty Lawson soon got going as the Lakers fed the Nuggets with turnovers. As Faried got another putback, the Lakers trailed twelve to seven but mostly lacked effort. The labeled “heart and soul” of the Lakers, Metta World Peace, entered the game with 7:27 along with sharpshooter Jodie Meeks. Javale McGee, who bothered the Lakers in the playoffs last year, entered the game for the Nuggets. Javale McGee continued to bother the Lakers with two straight dunks as the Nuggets went on an 11-2 run to take a seven point lead.
As the Lakers continued to take jump shots to get back in the game, Ty Lawson continued to burn them in the paint, driving and dishing on every play. Strong play from Steve Nash got players such as Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks to get going and the Lakers soon had a 24-23 lead of their own. The hustle of Kenneth Faried gave the Nuggets the lead as he grabbed his seventh board and made the easy layup.
After one, the Nuggets led the Lakers 29-26.
I’m starting to think Nash sets the best screens on the team. BK
— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) December 27, 2012
The Lakers quickly went to Howard on the inside, who quickly operated against a multitude of Nugget defenders. George Karl promptly brought Javale McGee back into the game to match up with Howard. The Lakers continued to struggle on the glass, as the Nuggets turned another offensive rebound into second chance points. With just under 10 minutes to go, Pau returned to the game. This marked one of the less common times the Lakers had Dwight and Pau in together.
As the teams battled back and forth, each Laker basket had an answer from the Nuggets. Pick and roll after pick and roll, the Nuggets continued to dissect the Laker defense in the half court and the Lakers soon trailed by eight. The Lakers promptly responded with a converted three point play off a lob pass from Gasol to Howard. A deep three from Bryant brought the Lakers back within two before Andre Iguodola got another easy transition basket for the Nuggets.
Pau Gasol continued to attack the basket as he kept the Lakers in the game halfway through the quarter. As Gasol continue to show his range, his back to back three pointers brought the Nugget lead down to one with five minutes to go. Both teams finished the half with sloppy play and the Lakers trailed 57-54.
Surprising that the 2 teams that played in Los Angeles yesterday are not playing the prettiest basketball in Denver right now
— J. Doug Hatings (@basquiatball) December 27, 2012
Even though the Lakers played poorly in the first half, they managed to enter the third down just three points. They survived 24 minutes of low energy and effort while managing to keep themselves in the game. Unfortunately they weren’t able to do that much longer. In the third quarter the team quickly fell apart, and the Nuggets took advantage.
It was obvious the team was gassed after their game yesterday, and it seemed that the Nuggets were more accustomed to the altitude difference in the Mile High city. Denver pushed their lead to 13 midway through the quarter thanks to a 14-2 run over the course of two minutes, and a seemingly winnable game suddenly seemed out of hand.
I figured this would be a trap game for the Lakers after such an emotional game against the Knicks. -R.
— NBA Sports City (@NBASportsCity) December 27, 2012
Things got even uglier for the Lakers when Dwight Howard, who had one of his worst games of the entire season, was ejected midway through the third quarter. Denver’s Kenneth Faried attacked the basket and Howard committed a hard foul. The officials determined the offense was worthy of a Flagrant-2 call, and sent Howard to the showers with a quarter and a half left to be played.
The Lakers did manage to pull back within three at one point late in the quarter, but a buzzer beating triple from Corey Brewer put the Nuggets back up by nine heading into the final quarter.
After giving up 96 points through the first three quarters of the game, it was apparent the Lakers hadn’t brought their best defense to the arena on Wednesday night. One of the main reasons for this was their poor rebounding. The Nuggets held a double-digit rebounding advantage for the majority of the game, and used many of those offensive rebounds to build their advantage. Even though the Lakers stayed close for most of the night, it seemed that whenever they needed to get a big rebound they simply were unable to do so.
Sayin it again. Players like Jordan Hill don’t get enough credit. Not glamorous. Just #tough.
— Rebecca Hall (@RebeccaHallLA) December 27, 2012
A big triple from Andre Iguodala put the Lakers in a 15-point hole, and things were looking bleak for a 6-game winning streak. It seemed to be that the Lakers would make a nice play on offense that would conceivably give them some momentum, only to have it taken right back from them on the other end due to poor defense. Late in the quarter, however, Kobe did surpass the 30-point mark for the 10th consecutive game. So much for him shooting less when Steve Nash returned.
The final turning point came late in the fourth when a streaking Ron Artest missed a fastbreak layup that would have cut Denver’s lead down to just five. The result? A run from the Nuggets that immediately pushed it back to 12 points and ultimately closed the door on the Lakers’ comeback hopes. Ultimately the rebounding differential and poor defense doomed the Lakers, ending their winning streak. The Nuggets avenged an earlier loss to the Lakers by beating Los Angeles in Denver, 126-114.