Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Denver, the Lakers looking to build on two straight road wins, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Sessions, Ebanks, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos
6:34 Inspired by a bit of everything from Metta World Peace, the Lakers reeled off an 8-0 run to take a 15-8 lead. MWP continued his terrific offensive streak from the past week or so, hitting a three to go with a transition dunk, and smashing home a one-handed dunk off his own strip of Gallinari.
By the way: Mike Brown left the game for personal reasons before tip, leaving assistant John Kuester to handle head coaching duties for the evening. No more information was available, but we of course wish Brown well.
1:08 L.A. continued an excellent all-around quarter with consecutive stops around a Matt Barnes triple off the bench, moments after he’d stripped a Nugget and slammed home a dunk in transition, to make it 28-14 for the home team. Denver was shooting only 26 percent up to that point.
0:00 The D relented a bit in the final minute and change, however, allowing three straight Denver makes, plus 1 of 2 free throws that cut L.A.’s lead to 11 after one at 30-19.
9:00 After allowing Denver to cut the lead to six, LAL answered with a 5-0 run, featuring a Barnes and-1 (eight bench points in seven minutes) and Gasol’s long jumper that made it 37-26.
7:01 How about World Peace, folks? He was up to 11 points on 4 of 5 field goals after burying another three. If he plays like this on offense, and Bynum continues to control the defensive paint and glass in general, the Lakers are scaring a lot of teams in the playoffs.
4:15 However, three minutes later, L.A. had yet to score again, while the Nuggets took advantage of suddenly sloppy offense to roll off an 11-0 run, keyed by easy transition buckets, that cut the lead to only four. Barnes ended a fantastic individual half with a buzzer-beating heave that must have gone 30 feet into the air before swishing home, making for a 54-48 margin at the break.
7:51 A sloppy start to the third saw L.A. turn the ball over four times in the first three minutes of the period, though Bynum’s transition dunk of a Nuggets’ turnover kept L.A. in front by five, Bynum reaching 14 points, though he had only three boards after grabbing 30 at San Antonio. George Karl obviously had his troops watch the game tape from that Spurs tape … think boxing Bynum out came up?
5:00 The lead was pushed back to double digits on a tough baseline hook from Bynum, followed by his put-back on the next play, getting him to 18 points with five boards and three assists, a solid all-around effort in Bryant’s absence.
0:00 L.A. had used more interior dominance from Bynum, Denver double teams be damned, to push its lead back to double digits, though Al Harrington’s 3 cut the lead to eight entering the fourth quarter. Same pattern: LAL push lead big, Denver charges back, leaving us 12 more minutes of intrigue.
8:22 Like we were saying … the Lakers would push the lead back to double digits (87-79 on Gasol’s jumper) only to concede consecutive hoops to Denver, cutting the lead back to eight. What had been just as consistent: Barnes. He drained another three to reach 18 bench points, plus seven boards, second only to Bynum’s 24 and eight.
4:25 Really, really sounding like a broken record here, but the Nuggets used a 6-0 run to cut the lead down to just two, but no tie was to be had just yet as two Bynum free throws. But with 2:12 left, L.A. had pushed the lead again back to five, this time thanks mostly to Barnes, who hit another three (his fourth in four attempts) and 1 of 2 free throws after clearing his ninth board.
1:29 Gasol added a key defensive swat, but this night belonged to Barnes, who added a runner to reach a season-high 24 points, then lofted an alley-oop pass to Bynum (30 points for the sixth time this season) that closed the door for good in the final minute. Barnes did his damage on 9 of 11 field goals, sinking all four of his three-pointers, in a most efficient evening that also included 10 boards.
The final score, 103-97, saw the Lakers improve to 38-22 with a third straight victory, leaving them 1.5 games ahead of the Clippers (plus the tiebreaker) for the No. 3 seed in the West. Up next: Dallas on Sunday. See you there.