Lakers 90, Nuggets 95: April 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home contest against Denver, the Lakers looking to build on a season-high nine-game winning streak, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: T. Lawson, W. Chandler, D. Gallinari, K. Martin, Nene

FIRST QUARTER
7:20 The early West Coast starts usually seem to bring some sluggish play in the opening minutes, and Sunday’s game was no exception as L.A. opened 2-for-9 and Denver 2-for-6 in the first four minutes. Kobe Bryant missed his first four shots, but than converted his next two, including a transition alley-oop dunk from Derek Fisher that put L.A. up 8-4.

3:00 This isn’t breaking news or anything, but Phil Jackson’s pretty smart. Denver was having success with Kenyon Martin on Gasol, as Martin just pushes the Spaniard out of the paint, and if the refs are allowing contact affects Gasol’s offense. Pau missed his first three shots, so Jackson just put Lamar Odom in for Andrew Bynum, forcing Denver to shift center Nene over to Gasol. The result: two straight hoops for Gasol, making it a 13-12 Nuggets lead.

0:00 A poor first quarter (mercifully) ended with little-used backup center Timofey Mozgov (best known for getting hammer dunked on by Blake Griffin, or as the final piece to the Carmelo Anthony trade) putting back a Nuggets miss to give his new squad a 21-20 lead. L.A. shot just 36 percent and Denver 34.8 percent, the Nuggs out-rebounding L.A. 16-13.

SECOND QUARTER
6:50 Though Steve Blake had some nice individual moments, including two steals and a pull-up jumper, it wasn’t until Bryant and Fisher returned to score five straight points — Fisher hitting a three, Bryant a deuce — to tie the score at 29 that L.A.’s play got noticeably better. Bynum, meanwhile, grabbed his 10th board on the possession after Fisher’s triple.

5:34 Sometimes during extra long TV time outs, Kobe will start to juggle the basketball like it’s a soccer ball, much like he may have in Italy during childhood days. Here, he got two touches with the left and two right the right, then helped L.A. score on its next three possessions to tie the score at 35.

1:39 The first triple of the game from Ron Artest gave L.A. its biggest lead at 45-38, a Lakers run keyed by Bryant’s production from the free throw line. In his last five games, he’s attempted 11, 17, 8, 15 & 10 from the line, and nailed all seven first half attempts, showing how he’s picked up his aggression going to the rim. Meanwhile, Bryant nailed a tough running bank shot with 9.4 seconds left in the half to make it a 47-40 advantage for the home team, giving him game-high 19 points.

THIRD QUARTER
9:17 Few things can make the building quieter than an injury to one of L.A.’s stars, and in this case, it was Gasol who landed awkwardly on his right knee after a hard foul from Nene. Gasol appeared to be OK while walking to L.A.’s bench during a time out, but after shooting a free throw, left the game and headed to the training room with Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti.

5:00 A collective sigh went through STAPLES Center as Gasol ran back out of the tunnel, and checked into the game moments later. His jumper at the 3:30 mark put the Lakers up 62-61, answering Raymond Felton’s three, getting Pau to 14 points with nine boards.

0:00 Denver played well in the third to trim all seven points off L.A.’s halftime lead (69-all), but the Lakers were hurting themselves by committing 15 turnovers in the first three periods, six in the third alone. This after just 10 at Utah, seven vs. Dallas and nine vs. N.O. in their last three games.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:49 After converting a pretty half-court alley-oop from Blake, Barnes scored again in the paint on the next possession to get L.A. a 73-69 lead early in the final period. It was Shannon Brown, however, whom Phil Jackson identified by name as the player he said L.A. needed to get things going off the pine when I asked following the win at Utah. Brown wast jut 1-for-3 for two points without a rebound or assist in eight minutes at that point.

8:05 But back came the Nuggets, reeling off a 6-0 run with a Raymond Felton three and Mozgov and-1 layup, putting Denver up three points. Felton had failed to score in the first half on 0-for-6 shooting, but hit 5-of-7 shots to get 13 points since. Bryant, Gasol and Fisher would be beckoned from the bench moments later.

3:23 The Lakers had stepped things up defensively, getting four straight stops and converting at the other end to take an 83-82 lead on Fisher’s pull-up jumper. But then came two straight turnovers from Gasol, with Denver swiping away at the ball, produced easy Nuggs hoops at the other end to create an 89-83 edge. Turning the ball over had killed the Lakers all game (20), and was directly against the game plan of how to play the Nuggets. Phil Jackson, not amused, called time out to discuss.

0:15.0 With the game all but over, Odom pulled up for a three-pointer to get the Lakers within two. L.A. then put Nene on the foul line, and he obliged by missing his second free throw, but Kenyon Martin — whether it was a foul or not, it was a smart play — pushed Odom under the rim, and tipped home the miss to seal the game at 95-90 for the Nuggets. Gone was L.A.’s 9-game winning streak, their margin in the loss column back at two. But the contest was lost with L.A. turning the ball over 20 times, not failing to box out once. Stay tuned for postgame numbers.