The Los Angeles Lakers are taking on the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday at the Pepsi Center. Kobe Bryant, who missed two straight games with a sore shoulder, will make his final appearance in Denver. Denver has not been kind to Kobe since he was accused of sexual assault by a Colorado woman back in 2004. Since the incident, Kobe has been greeted with boos from the Pepsi Center crowd, but Nuggets’ fans paid their respects with cheers for the Laker legend during the player introductions.
The Lakers are coming off of one of their more exciting wins of the season, where their highly criticized rookie, D’Angelo Russell, exploded for a career-high 39 points and had several clutch threes to seal the win against the Brooklyn Nets. Russell is poised to prove that last night was not a fluke, and he will be matching up with a fellow lottery pick, Emmanuel Mudiay. Russell versus Mudiay will be a compared with one another their entire careers, as they are the top two point guards in their draft class.
D’Angelo Russell picked up where he left off, draining a pull-up jumper and then assisting Jordan Clarkson’s three-pointer to give the Lakers an early 5-4 lead. Kobe got some familiar treatment from the Denver crowd, who booed him every time he touched the ball, but the Lakers fans in the crowd eventually drowned out the jeers with cheers of their own for Kobe. The Nuggets went on a 15-3 run, and the Lakers trailed by 11 points midway through the first quarter. Kobe Bryant began to fill up the scoring column with a three-pointer and then two free throws to cut the Lakers’ deficit to just six points. Clarkson started out hot from beyond the arc, knocking down his third three-pointer of the game, giving the Lakers a two point lead. Despite a lull in the middle of the quarter, the Lakers managed to lead the Nuggets 29-27 after one.
Marcelo Huertas scored the Lakers’ first four points of the quarter courtesy of two running floaters, and the Lakers led by three. With just under nine minutes remaining in the quarter, Huertas found Tarik Black, who finished an alley-oop with an acrobatic dunk. Despite the Lakers impressive offensive play, the Nuggets played just as well, shooting 56 percent from the field. Muddily had played impressively throughout the first half, but Russell nailed his first three-pointer of the game to give him 10 points and the Lakers a two-point lead midway through the second quarter. With 3:25 left in the half, Anthony Brown was charged with a very questionable flagrant-one foul on Kenneth Faried. Brown made a play on the ball, but since Faried fell to the ground hard, the refs awarded the Nuggets with two free throws and possession of the ball. After drilling another three-pointer, Russell made a jumper despite getting fouled, but he could not convert the three-point play. Russell flipped in a floater on the Lakers last possession of the half, and the Lakers led 60-57 at the half.
Kobe Bryant would not return to action in the second half to rest his sore right shoulder that has been bothering him throughout the season. Nuggets guard, Gary Harris, scored eight straight points to begin the half, and the Lakers trailed by one. The Lakers and Nuggets took turns exchanging leads, and the Lakers trailed 70-73 midway through the third quarter. Denver fans did not seem to get the memo that Kobe was done for the evening, but that did not prevent them from chanting his name in the third quarter. The Nuggets took an eight-point advantage as JaKarr Sampson hit a three-pointer with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter. Jordan Clarkson headed to the locker room earlier in the third quarter, but would not return to the game with a patellar tendon strain in his left knee. The Lakers battled back from an eight-point deficit and were only down by one with 1:06 to play in the third quarter. The Lakers lost their first-half lead, and they trailed 82-83 at the end of the third.
The Nuggets struck first in the fourth quarter, but Anthony Brown tied the game with a corner three with 10:40 remaining in regulation. Tarik Black may have gotten away with a goaltending violation after knocking the ball off of the rim, but that led to a three-pointer by Nick Young to give the Lakers a three-point lead. After the Lakers had regained the lead, the Nuggets scored 10 unanswered points, sparked by D.J. Augustine, as the Lakers could not take care of the ball on the offensive end. The Lakers defensive struggles continued as the game winded down, and they trailed by eight with 3:38 remaining in the game. The Lakers temporarily cut the lead down to five points, but Mudiay and Augustine pushed the lead back up to 10 points with 1:50 remaining in the game. Augustine just about sealed the game with 22 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers would fall to Denver.
Final Score: Lakers 107 Nuggets 117