Lakers 90, Nuggets 99: Jan. 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening road contest at Denver, the Lakers looking to win a fourth straight game, 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, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, Nene, T. Mozgov

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 Our early eye was trained to how L.A. got up and down the floor, as the famed altitude usually affects players in the first quarter more than anything, but one player it didn’t seem to bug too much was Bynum, fresh off his 29-point, 13-board debut. He scored six of L.A.’s first 14 points despite missing four free throws, his team up five points after two Gasol free throws gave him six points as well.

2:25 “Turnovers will keep Denver in this game,” said Mike Brown from his huddle, reflecting on L.A. committing six in the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Kobe was 0-for-4, the team had missed five foul shots and Bynum was on the bench with two personals. Denver took advantage to take a 26-21 lead into the second quarter.

SECOND QUARTER
6:39 That L.A. was down only 31-29 despite eight turnovers and early foul trouble for Bryant and Bynum was a good sign for the Lakers, who got four straight points from Metta World Peace resulting off low-post opportunities, where he’s been (by far) at his most effective this season.

2:26 A poor stretch on both ends of the floor resulted in an 8-0 Nuggets spurt, L.A. missing jumpers badly (Kobe 1-for-10) and putting the Nuggets on the foul line at the other end. The result: 47-36 Denver at the half, a truly terrible offensive half for the road team, who at least had 24 minutes to reverse the trend.

THIRD QUARTER
9:59 L.A. began to try and sneak their way back into the game through early buckets by Barnes and Gasol, cutting the lead to eight before a Barnes technical (he wanted a foul called) made it 50-41 Nuggs. At the break, assistant Quin Snyder told me it wasn’t so much about turnovers, defense, shot selection or anything specific, but just general effort that L.A. needed to rely upon.

10:00 Anybody want 28,000 career points? At the foul line, Bryant became just the sixth player in NBA history to reach that milestone, the only guard not named Michael Jordan on the list. Let’s pause for reflection. Now, back in Denver, Bryant was struggling like mad from the field, making only two of his first 15 attempts, but his intensity picked up, and so did that of his teammates, allowing a big run to tie the game at 50 after L.A. had trailed by 11 at the break.

0:00 A terrific overall quarter saw L.A. outscore Denver 35-25 to turn an 11-point halftime deficit into just one into the fourth, this despite Kobe’s 3-for-18 from the field. Steve Blake keyed a late Lakers run, pulling up from three to nail his first triple, and fourth shot in five attempts, for nine points off the pine.

FOURTH QUARTER
7:15 Finally getting one to go was Kobe, putting L.A. up four points on top of a corner jumper from Blake (designed out of a time out by assistant coach and great offensive mind John Kuester), giving L.A.’s backup PG 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The bench was key here, giving L.A. 30 points to Denver’s 36 a game after the Nuggets reserves outscored L.A. 39-16.

3:08 Bryant’s 20-foot jumper was just his fifth hit in 23 attempts, but Denver countered with a quick 3-0 run to tie the game. Gallinari, attacking the rim to try and end his perimeter shooting slump, then traded buckets with Kobe to tie the game at 90.

0:00 L.A. sure picked a bad time to concede a 10-0 run, but after taking that 90-88 lead, they bricked everything, with Denver converting each time at the other end. Bryant missed three more field goals, the most he’s ever missed in a game according to KCAL 9′s Bill Macdonald (6-for-28), World Peace missed a three and Bynum missed a put-back, while four different Nuggets scored on the other end. As such, L.A.’s three-game winning streak would be snapped.

Your final: 99-90 Denver. We’ll see you back in Los Angeles for a Tuesday tilt against Houston.