The Denver Nuggets are in town tonight to face the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. There are only 11 games remaining in the regular season, and the Lakers are looking forward to the offseason, where they have the chance to significantly improve their roster.
The Nuggets are not doing much better than the Lakers this season, but they have a young point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, who makes the future look a little bit brighter in Denver. The marquee matchup will be between Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell as the two enjoy competing against one another. This will be the last time the Lakers play the Nuggets this season, and they are looking to finish the season on a positive note with a few more wins.
The Lakers came out of the gate quickly; Jordan Clarkson hit a three and Kobe followed it up with a left-handed layup to give them a 5-0 lead. The Nuggets responded with four straight points, but Julius Randle dropped off a pass between his legs for Clarkson, who then hit a three from straight away. Clarkson followed that with his third triple of the night and the Lakers led 13-4 early in the first quarter. Randle and Clarkson made another highlight play, where Randle threw the lob and Clarkson guided the ball into the basket in heavy traffic. Kobe started shooting well, draining back-to-back buckets to give him eight points in the game. Julius Randle had the biggest impact on the game with six rebounds and five assists, and the Lakers led 31-24 after the first quarter.
The Nuggets started the second quarter with a 7-2 run, and the Lakers lead diminished to just two points. D’Angelo Russell finally got on the board as Marcelo Huertas found him cutting backdoor for the reverse layup, and the Lakers pushed their lead back up to six points. The Nuggets responded with a 7-0 run and the Lakers trailed for the first time in the game, 39-40. Denver pushed their run to 17-0 and the Lakers trailed by 11 points with 3:55 left in the half. Clarkson finally stopped the bleeding after probing the lane and floated in the short corner shot. On the defensive end, D’Angelo Russell fell to the ground after rolling his ankle and he had to be carried into the locker room. Russell would not return to the game after exiting with 3:02 remaining in the first half. The highlight of the first half came way of an alley-oop to Will Barton, who floated to the rim and slammed it home with authority. The Lakers were outscored 15-34 in the second quarter and trailed 46-58 at the end of the first half.
D’Angelo Russell did not return in the second half due to a moderate ankle sprain, but X-Rays were negative, so he will be out day-to-day. Julius Randle had a nice chase-down block and was rewarded on the offensive end where he finished with a left-handed layup in semi-transition, but the Lakers still trailed by 16. Kobe came out of the locker room and knocked down back-to-back three-pointers, but the Lakers continued to allow the Nuggets to score easily in the paint. Several minutes later, Kobe made his fourth three-pointer of the game to give him 20 points and the Lakers cut the deficit to 13 points with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter. The Lakers went on a 14-5 run and were able to cut the Nuggets’ lead to single digits, and they had all the momentum heading into the fourth quarter. Larry Nance Jr. finished the quarter with a gorgeous dunk in traffic and the Lakers only trailed 77-83 at the end of the third quarter.
The Lakers and Nuggets played pretty evenly for the first few minutes, but the Lakers trailed by eight points with 9:08 remaining in regulation. D.J. Augustine continued to destroy the Lakers like he always does, as he beat the shot clock with a fallaway three-pointer in the corner to push the Nuggets lead to 11 points. The Lakers started to let the game slip away and trailed by 15 points midway through the fourth. Things were not looking good for the Lakers on the offensive end, and the Nuggets were scoring at will as they pushed the lead to 20 points with five minutes remaining in the game. The Lakers tried to make a late push as Kobe score his 28th point of the evening, but he as subbed out by Metta World Peace on the next dead ball. Julius Randle finished the game with his first career triple-double: scoring 13 points with 17 rebounds and 10 assists.
Final Score: Lakers 105 Nuggets 116