Lakers 79, Nuggets 90: Postgame

Chris AndersonEarlier today, I wrote about how good L.A.’s been on the second end of back-to-back’s this season, with 11 wins and only three close losses to elite teams (Orlando, San Antonio and Utah). Thanks in part to a deep bench, the Lakers have rarely if ever looked tired on game day.

Uhhh, yeah … Can I take that back? Too bad for Lakers fans that we saw the opposite on Friday night in Denver.

L.A.’s bench in particular may as well have unrolled sleeping bags and laid them out on the Pepsi Center floor against the Nuggets, as the stats verify: Denver’s bench outscored L.A.’s 47-7 (repeat: 47-7) for the evening, and the starters weren’t much better in L.A.’s season-low scoring output. The Lakers managed to make just 28-of-94 shots to shoot 29.8 percent (also a season low) from the field, as only a last-second layup from Jordan Farmar kept this from being L.A.’s worst shooting game in franchise history.

“That was a garbage game, no doubt about it,” said Phil Jackson. “I wish we could repay the fans some money … Neither team played very well, but they played better than us.”

Yet and still, the purple and gold managed to stay within six points (46-40) at halftime, and even pulled ahead by five with a solid start to the third quarter. Then, however, L.A.’s second unit came back in and once again offered next to nothing, allowing Denver’s bench to open up a 74-63 lead early in the fourth that they wouldn’t relinquish.

“(The bench) is in (the locker room) with their tail between their legs,” said Jackson. “They felt real disappointed about that. They wanted to come out and perform tonight, but they really had a terrible performance.”

Sure enough, the bench combination of Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza had managed not a single point in the game until Farmar’s breakaway layup with five seconds left in the game, and Kobe Bryant’s shot simply wasn’t falling from the perimeter in a 10-for-31 effort.

Lamar Odom managed another 19 rebounds, but he too couldn’t get anything to go, making 5-of-19 shots while his frontcourt partner Pau Gasol hit 6-of-13, a sparkling 42.9 percentage on this night. In fact, the only other Laker to shoot anything close to 50 percent was D.J. Mbenga, who made his only shot of the game.

With all that said … The team’s second loss in February – just hours after a 132–106 blowout win against Phoenix – really doesn’t mean much. L.A. was tired, had trouble matching a pumped up Nuggets team that had lost nine straight games to the Lakers, and still possessed the league’s best record (48-11). That’s that.

Your numbers:

29.8
L.A.’s shooting percentage on 28-of-94 from the field, including 2-of-21 from three. Kobe Bryant alone missed 21 shots (10-of-31).

23.5
Carmelo Anthony’s shooting percentage on 4-of-17 from the field.

22
Offensive rebounds for the Lakers, including seven from Lamar Odom and five from Bryant. Too bad they couldn’t convert more than 19 second-chance points.

13
Nuggets free throw attempts in the second quarter alone, a combination of tired Lakers defense and the proverbial quick referee whistle. The home team finished with 36 free throw attempts to 27 from the Lakers on a great deal fewer possessions.

8
Points in the paint for L.A. in the first half.

7
Shots blocked by Nuggets sub Chris Anderson in 28 minutes, the second-most this season against the Lakers (Jermaine O’Neal, 9).

4
More points scored by Denver’s bench than by its starters. L.A.’s starters scored 72 more points than its bench.