The Los Angeles Lakers got their first chance to play the new-look Denver Nuggets en route to a potential tenth consecutive victory. After the San Antonio Spurs won earlier in the day, the Lakers had to take care of the Nuggets in order to avoid a two-game deficit in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers came into the game 16-1 since the all-star break, and they hoped to continue their winning ways at Staples Center.
Andrew Bynum had an auspicious start to the game, and he was forcing his will inside the paint. Bynum scored the Lakers first two buckets, but the rest of the team was unable to find early success on the offensive end of the court. Even though Bynum was very effective and efficient, Kobe Bryant could not find his shot and he missed his first four attempts from the field. At the mid-way point of the first quarter, the Lakers were leading the Nuggets by a mere two points, 8-6.
The Lakers were forcing turnovers and missed shots on the defensive end, but they could not find an offensive rhythm. The Lakers were stagnant and there was no movement is their offensive end; the team was relying on isolation play and they could not find any open shot attempts. However, once the Lakers’ reserves were inserted into the game, the team was boosted with a spark of energy and life. The bench helped spur Los Angeles to a 6-0 run, but at the end of the first quarter Los Angeles found itself trailing 21-20.
The Lakers shooting woes continued in the second quarter, as they misfired on their first three shots. Unlike the opening period where a wide-open look was quite rare, the Lakers were seeing open shots attempts but the failed to convert. Luckily for the Lakers, the Nuggets were also experiencing trouble on offensive end and they too could not convert on their open looks. With 6:20 left in the first half, the Lakers and Nuggets were knotted up at 29.
In the latter half of the second quarter, both teams began to play a more up-tempo style and they were beginning to make their shots. The first 18 minutes of the game were very uninteresting and neither team was unable to put find any offensive continuity. However, as half-time approached the Lakers and Nuggets amped up their intensity and they finally brought excitement to the Staples Center.
At the conclusion of the first half, the Lakers were ahead by seven points, 47-40. The Lakers shot 40% from the field and Kobe was the leading scorer with 19 points, 13 of which came in the second quarter.
The Lakers’ offense looked decent coming out of the locker-room, and they were able to score buckets early in quarter. However, despite the great start to the half, the Lakers held their breath when Pau Gasol suffered from what seemed to be a severe knee injury. Luckily for the team, Gasol was able to come back to the game after seeking medical attention.
As Gasol was limping around the court after his big fall, Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lamar Odom stepped up when the Lakers needed it the most. Odom hit two consecutive shots, and he provided the team with a much needed boost. With 4:11 left in the third quarter, the Lakers found themselves up by two points, 60-58.
No team was able to spur together an effective run, and the game remained close throughout the first three quarters. At the end of the third period, the Lakers and Nuggets headed to the benches tied up at 69. Although the Staples Center crowd appeared bored and remained quiet for the majority of the game, it was gearing up for an intense fourth quarter.
The Lakers and Nuggets once again traded baskets, and neither team was able to get a defensive stop. The back-court duo of Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton caused a lot of trouble for the Lakers, and the two point guards gave the Nuggets an offensive spark. The Killer Bs started the fourth very aggressive and their speed and ability to attack the rim helped the Lakers stay in the game.
The Nuggets’ bench provided the team with great offense, and they helped the Nuggets expand their lead to four. Once momentum began to shift toward Denver’s side, Phil Jackson reinserted his stars Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant into the game. However, even the Lakers’ starters could not stop the rolling Nuggets, as Denver opened up a six point lead, 89-83, with 3:23 left in regulation.
The final three minutes of the game were played with great intensity and both teams wanted to come out victorious. With 20.9 seconds left in the game, the Lakers found themselves down by five points, 92-87; in order for them to pull off the comeback, the Lakers needed a miracle.
However, the Lakers created too big of a deficit and they fell to the Nuggets, 95-90. The Lakers’ nine game winning streak was snapped and they fell to a record of 55-21