Below is a running diary of L.A.’s road test in Denver as the Lakers looked for a ninth straight victory to open the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Nuggets: Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Shelden Williams, Nene
8:12 Hot starts had become an early-season trademark for the Lakers, but on this night, neither Kobe Bryant nor Pau Gasol could find the rim in the early goings … enter Ron Artest, who scored L.A.’s first five points before two Bryant free throws tied the game at seven.
1:07 The Lakers seemed to be easing into the contest, yet still owned a six-point lead at 24-18 after three Shannon Brown free throws, resulting from J.R. Smith’s ill-advised foul on the perimeter. Artest led the Lakers with nine, while Steve Blake and Matt Barnes had entered for Bryant and Fisher, Fish having gone out after tweaking a foot or ankle landing on Chauncey Billups’s foot after a made jumper.
0:00 L.A. wasn’t efficient in the first, shooting only 36%, but Denver was only at 37%, and allowed 13 FT’s to L.A. while taking just two. The Nuggs did manage to trim four points off the Lakers’ lead to trail by two at 26-24.
9:45 Consecutive steals (Brown, Gasol) produced consecutive easy buckets in transition (that’s how it works, after all). First came Brown’s double-clutch hammer dunk, and second a Barnes layup off Gasol’s feed that made it 33-30 for the visitors, prompting a George Karl time out.
7:02 L.A.’s bench was terrific to open the period, making 7-of-8 shots to create a 42-34 lead when Brown’s second field goal went through, though the effective Barnes had to go to the pine after picking up his third foul. With Odom and Gasol still on the bench, however, the Nuggets began to score at will in the paint, going on a 14-2 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a 48-44 lead.
2:51 While Bryant was starting to get his offense rolling late in the period, there was a long brawl in the lower level between two guys wearing respective Nuggets and Lakers jerseys that was finally broken up by security. A few of the players looked onward from the floor in what would moments later be a 52-all tie with a few minutes to go in the half. Moments later, Bryant exploded to the hole for a two-handed dunk, then found Fisher for an open three to allow for a 64-59 Lakers lead at halftime.
10:27 Bryant, Gasol and Odom were oddly a combined 8-of-28 (29 percent) in the first half, but the rest of the Lakers picked them up to combine for 63 percent. But things changed pretty quickly in the second half, as Bryant nailed back-to-back jumpers to become the youngest NBA player to reach 26,000 points, which preceded an Odom put-back that suddenly had L.A. up 70-59.
6:29 L.A.’s offense had begun to fully resemble the one that produced a league-high 113 points per game through its first eight wins, as Gasol, Artest and Bryant all added buckets to put the Lakers up 79-68. Their lead had reached as many as 14, but Carmelo Anthony was doing his thing at the other end, reaching a game-high 22 points on an and-1 to keep Denver within shouting distance.
0:47.6 The visitors looked to be fully in control throughout the quarter, but Denver, using an uber-small line up with Al Harrington at center and Anthony at power forward, cut the margin to as few as four on a J.R. Smith and-1 continuation play. Yet the Lakers continued to have an answer, this time coming on a Kobe free throw when Smith got T’d up after a loose ball, and then a catch-and-shoot three from Brown that made it a 93-85 lead after three for L.A.
8:48 L.A. picked a bad time for a letdown, and the Nuggets responded behind subs Ty Lawson, Gary Forbes and Smith to roll out a quick 10-0 run to tie the game at 95, bringing Bryant back into the contest after his brief rest.
6:06 The Lakers couldn’t find an answer for ultra-quick Lawson, who added another free throw and a three-pointer to total 11 points of his own in the quarter, suddenly putting Denver up six points. But in a quarter of wild swings, the Lakers promptly reeled off an 8-0 run of their own, featuring deep threes from both Bryant and Brown, not to mention a crazy-athletic put-back dunk from Brown to re-open a lead for L.A. Let’s pause to catch our breath…
2:11 Well, Denver didn’t pause. They rolled off another big run, this time 11-0, to open a 114-105 lead, the Lakers looking stagnant on offense and settling for a bevy of three-pointers (9-of-27 for the game).
1:02 Still another swing, this time from L.A., had Kobe and Co. within four with the ball and a minute to go, but Bryant’s top-of-the-key triple rimmed out, and Denver held on for a 118-112 victory, handing L.A. its first loss of the season.
They’ll try to get back in the win column on Sunday against Phoenix at home, but until then, your numbers:
26,000 Career points reached by Kobe Bryant with his second jumper of the third quarter, making him the youngest player in NBA history to reach that plateau. Bryant had 13 points in the period and a game-high 34 total.
33 Points conceded by the Lakers in the critical fourth quarter, as the Nuggets enjoyed separate runs of 10-0 and 11-0 to take the game out of L.A.’s grasp despite the visitors leading by as many as 14 points in the third quarter.
29 Three-pointers attempted by the Lakers, far more than Phil Jackson said he’d prefer.
20 Game-high rebounds for Pau Gasol, who nonetheless appeared to have tired legs particularly late while playing in all but four minutes of the contest. He was uncharacteristically off offensively, making only 6-of-17 shots.
0 Minutes played in the fourth quarter by Lamar Odom, who was just 1-of-6 from the field through three quarters despite his 12 rebounds. Jackson said he was responding to Denver’s small line up, keeping Artest at power forward to guard Carmelo Anthony and Gasol at center on Al Harrington, and rewarding Shannon Brown for his effective play off the bench (nine of Brown’s 19 points came in the fourth quarter).