Lakers 114, Nuggets 126: Dec. 26 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday night contest at Denver, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Morris, Bryant, Gasol and Howard
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Iguodala, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos

FIRST QUARTER
3:48 It wasn’t a great start for the Lakers in this one, as Kenneth Faried’s seven points and five boards in eight minutes typified Denver’s effort, but four straight points from Kobe (despite two missed free throws) cut the early deficit to 22-18. The Nuggets were getting to the rim way too easily, however, something L.A. would need to clean up.

0:00 The Lakers only played well for a short stretch of the first, with Nash rolling towards three assists and 3 of 3 shooting to help a 6-0 push that gave the visitors the lead, but Faried continued his assault on the O glass (five of his nine boards on that end) to help give the Nuggets a 29-26 lead out of the first. The rebounding advantage was 16-10, and the Lakers missed five free throws on top of that.

SECOND QUARTER
5:44 Remember the emphatic driving dunk from Gasol in the final seconds to clinch the Christmas win against New York? Gasol made a similar movement in the second quarter, getting all the way to the rim for a tough layup, then drained a three on the next trip down to cut what had grown to an 8-point lead to one at 46-45. Moments later, he’d drain another triple to reach 13 points.

0:00 With the Lakers really not playing well for much of the half, missing seven free throws and getting out-rebounded 31-21, being down only three at 57-54 was actually a good thing from L.A.’s perspective. Bryant had 15, Gasol 13 points, but Howard was quiet, and Nash had to sit the final three minutes of the second quarter with three fouls. Keep an eye on screen/roll defense, as well, as that was a problem area for the Lakers throughout the half. Howard has traditionally been one of the NBA’s best in that context, but it wasn’t there in the first.

THIRD QUARTER
7:51 Starting in the middle with Howard, L.A. continued to look lethargic, the Nuggets taking advantage with a 9-0 run to push their lead to 73-60. Bryant was the only guy being aggressive, reaching 21 points on 8 of 16, but Denver had five fast break points in the quarter and was still dominating the glass, 36-23. The were also plus nine at the foul line, L.A. missing nine of their 16 attempts.

5:02 Howard’s legs weren’t showing much more of a vertical than Andre Miller, as we’ve mentioned, and he stayed close to the ground while pushing Faried with two hands on a drive and not making a play on the ball. He was ejected with a flagrant two foul, even if the call was a bit harsh, and walked back to the locker room with the Lakers down seven.

0:00 Kobe was hitting some ridiculous shots from the perimeter, no matter who was in his face (usually either Iguodala or Corey Brewer), helping to get the Lakers back to within four after they’d trailed by as many as 13. The deficit ended up being six heading into the fourth after Iggy answered Chris Duhon’s long two with a reverse layup

FOURTH QUARTER
10:47 Compounding the poor finish to the third, L.A. allowed the first five points of the fourth, and were suddenly down 14. Corey Brewer hit his 4th three pointer towards a season-high 21 points in just 13 bench minutes, really killing the Lakers with a combo of frenetic energy and long-distance shooting. They’d been down 18 against Charlotte, 14 at Golden State and nine against the Knicks, all in the second half, before coming back for wins. Perhaps they’d finally learn their lesson with a loss in this one.

4:00 The Lakers had given themselves a chance with another push, trimming it to seven and clearing a defensive board, but World Peace missed a transition layup, and Gallinari hit a triple on the other end to push the lead right back to 10. It was the 10th three-pointer for the Nuggets in 20 attempts, this for a team that ranks 27th in the NBA from distance.

0:00 L.A. couldn’t get much closer than nine in the final few minutes, Denver continuing to drain shots, including the fifth and sixth three-pointers from Brewer, to match a career high with 27 points. Bryant added a late triple himself to reach 40 points (five triples himself), but L.A.’s 5-game winning streak was snapped. The Nuggets had more energy early, and built leads that were this time too steep for L.A. to handle. Up next is a Friday home game against Portland. We’ll see you there.