The Los Angeles Lakers returned to Staples Center following their impressive win over the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers matched up with the Denver Nuggets tonight, but Kobe Bryant missed another game for the Lakers due to his shin injury.
The Lakers are in a heated battle for the second seed in the Western Conference and they could not afford to lose to a team that may not even make the playoffs.
The Lakers received bad news at the beginning of the game as coach Mike Brown left the court for personal reasons, which made John Kuester the head coach for this contest.
As for the play on the court, the Los Angeles Lakers opened up with a three-point shot from Metta World Peace. World Peace scored 26 points against the Spurs and it was nice seeing him continue his impressive shooting. However, the Lakers began the game 1-4 from the field and were trailing 3-6 with 9:32 remaining in the quarter.
However, the Lakers slowly started to dominate and it was all thanks to the front-court. Despite the fact that the Lakers committed three early turnovers, the Lakers’ defense forced two themselves and got shots down in the paint. Gasol and World Peace contributed for seven of the Lakers’ first 13 points and that helped them take a 13-8 lead at the 6:34 mark.
The Lakers continued with their excellent play and their ball movement allowed them to get easy looks near the basket. The two seven footers were too much for the Nuggets to handle and with World Peace continuing to shoot the ball well, the Lakers were an extremely tough team. Los Angeles was playing with a lot of energy and their sense of focus was at an high on both ends of the court. With 3:51 left to play in the quarter, the Lakers were up 21-12.
After 12 minutes of play, the Lakers were up 30-19 behind ten points from Andrew Bynum and seven from World Peace. As a team, the Lakers shot 52 percent from the field and the Nuggets were at 35 percent.
The Lakers had a sloppy start to the second quarter and with their leading scoring Bynum on the bench, the team struggled to get their offense going. The Nuggets eventually cut the 14-point deficit down to six, but luckily the Lakers answered back just when it seemed as though Denver would make a push for the lead. With 9:14 to play in the half, the Lakers were up 37-26.
This time, Matt Barnes led the surge for the Lakers and he provided the team with buckets when they most needed it. Barnes’ ten points on 4-4 shooting was a much needed offensive run for the Lakers and his energy was something the team could not replace. That success rubbed off to the other players and the Lakers regained their former form. At the 6:23 mark of the period, the Lakers held a 43-31 lead.
However, the Nuggets made another run and this time they had 11 unanswered points. Momentum had shifted the Nuggets’ way and the majority of their points came in the open-court on the fast-break. The Lakers’ offense once again struggled and the Nuggets took advantage of the diminutive drought.
Denver rode their hot shooting to the end of the quarter, but their last minute blunders allowed the Lakers to increase their lead before heading to the locker-room. After two quarters, the Lakers were up 54-48 with the leading scorer being Barnes with 15.
The Lakers began to exchange baskets with the Nuggets and they were not dominating the game as they once were. Los Angeles did not relinquish the lead, but they allowed the Nuggets to stay in striking distance. In the opening half, the Lakers were clicking on all cylinders and their defensive pressure was impressive. However, they seemed to lose all that as the game progressed.
However, Los Angeles slowly started to get its act together and used its defense to spark something on the offensive end. This time Pau Gasol was the catalyst on both ends and he was having his way with the Nuggets’ big men. Gasol’s 12 points were almost a necessity and it helped give the Lakers a 65-56 advantage at the 6:05 mark of the period.
The Lakers went on an 11-2 run and they were in control of the game. Los Angeles was dictating the pace and it was clear the Nuggets were struggling to keep up with the Lakers’ front-court. The Lakers were getting whatever the wanted in the paint and Denver had no answers for the opposition. With 3:40 left to play in the quarter, the Lakers were up 70-60.
After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers were up 79-71. The Lakers needed one more quarter of great basketball and needed to stay weary as the Nuggets were still very much alive.
The Lakers started the final period hot from the perimeter and their guards were hitting their shots. Barnes and Blake provided the team with consecutive jumpers which brought the lead back up to double-digits. The Lakers were also playing solid defense and it was anchored by Metta World Peace. With 9:00 left to play in the game, the Lakers were up 87-77.
Although Los Angeles was the bigger team and it seemed as though they were in control of the game, the Nuggets remained in striking distance. The Lakers were playing better basketball, but the Nuggets never let up and made an effort to keep the deficit at a reasonable amount. At the 5:37 mark of the period, the Lakers were up just 89-85.
In the final five minutes of the game, the Lakers and Nuggets went back and forth. The final stretch had a playoff atmosphere and every possession carried a little more meaning. The Lakers would have relied on Kobe Bryant in this situation, but with him out of the game, the team had to find a closer to put away the Nuggets.
In this game, Matt Barnes channeled in his inner Kobe Bryant and took over the game late. Barnes was able to hurt the Nuggets on the perimeter and in the paint. Although he made a major mistake with his late technical foul, Barnes had two clutch shots as time was winding down. Despite the fact that Denver made it a game after trailing big, they could not do anything about Barnes and the big men.
As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers took home a 103-97 win. Matt Barnes put in 24 points and ten rebounds for the Lakers while World Peace had 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Los Angeles Lakers will be back on the court Sunday when they host the Mavericks at 12:30 p.m. PST.
Nobody correctly guessed before tip-off the first Lakers players to record a steal, three-point shot and dunk, which were Metta World Peace twice and Pau Gasol, respectively.