Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against the Nuggets, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Iguodala, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos
5:00 With L.A.’s cohesiveness and energy being questioned of late, the first seven minutes were very positive from the starting line up. They were even over-passing at times on offense but playing very well on D, as the Nuggets missed their first nine shots of the game. Howard had six boards and a block while controlling the defensive paint, while Bryant was serving as facilitator (two assists, two hockey assists). Meanwhile, Metta World Peace hit consecutive three-pointers, a welcome sign as he’d hit only 2 of his previous 19 attempts, but five turnovers (*over-passing*) allowed Denver to stay tight at 15-12.
1:12 After missing everything early, Denver started to find the bottom of the net with ease, as Corey Brewer scored six quick points off the bench, Andre Miller snuck to the rim for a lay up and Danilo Gallinari got an and-1 to go in transition off JaVale McGee’s block. In the final 1:36 of the quarter, the Nuggets somehow scored 11 points, capped by an Iguodala three off a missed free throw from McGee, that suddenly put the Lakers in a 34-28 hole. They’d have to fight uphill once again.
9:04 Who killed the Lakers in Denver on Dec. 26? Corey Brewer, who matched his career high with 27 points in that one behind 6 of 7 shooting from three, made five of his first seven shots, all twos, for 10 points off the Nuggets’ bench to help keep the lead at 40-36 despite four dimes from Chris Duhon off LAL’s bench. Duhon’s fourth dish was finished by Howard’s one-handed slam; L.A.’s center had good bounce in this one … as he showed a moment later by throwing down Nash’s lofted alley-oop.
0:00 The Lakers closed the second quarter very well, at one point taking a two-point lead before settling into a 60-all tie going into halftime, L.A. erasing what was once a nine-point Nuggets’ lead. Howard was the key, with 13 rebounds and some strong D to compliment 10 points, while Gasol had 11 points of his own and World Peace 12 thanks to three triples. Kobe was content to play facilitator, finishing with five assists in a half L.A. amassed 19 helpers, equaling their total against the Clippers in the entire game.
9:00 The threes were falling tonight, with MWP’s fourth and Kobe’s first making the team 8 of 17 (47 percent), this time turning a three-point deficit into a 70-66 lead. Nash was up to nine assists, meanwhile, orchestrating things for the home team.
3:09 Yet Denver kept battling back, getting their sixth three and then a run out layup to reach 19 fast break points to L.A.’s seven, turning a four-point LAL lead into an 83-80 edge of their own. L.A. was still above 50 percent in the game at 31 of 61 from the field, but missed three of their previous four shots, all open, to allow the Nuggets’ run.
11:45 Things like contested threes from role players like Brewer seem to just keep happening to the Lakers, and one went down to start the fourth, capping a 14-3 run that turned L.A.’s 4-point lead late in the third into a sudden 92-83 lead early in the final period. Yet again, the Lakers had a lot of work to do.
5:28 A Bryant hoop and two Jordan Hill free throws cut what had grown to a 10-point lead on Ty Lawson’s pull-up three, L.A. again trying to stay close enough to steal the game. Howard, meanwhile, was up to 21 rebounds, and Nash 11 assists with 10 points, but it was defense needed most. It certainly wasn’t there when Lawson got all the way to the rim for a layup after Nash missed a pull-up jumper.
0:13.8 In some ways summing up L.A.’s luck so far this season, Howard’s swat of Miller’s shot at the rim went directly to Gallinari, who drained a three as the shot clock expired to put Denver right back up six points after Bryant’s triple had cut the deficit to three on the previous possession. Had L.A. come up with a stop, they’d have had a chance to tie. Moments earlier, Howard had swatted Lawson at the rim and cleared the rebound with L.A. down four and two minutes to play, but turned the ball over trying to get the ball to a guard. Miller took the extra opportunity to not only hit a jumper, but trim 20 more seconds off the clock. Bryant followed by missing a jumper, and Lawson took the ball all the way to the rim on the other end to make it 105-97 with 1:18 to play.
Two absurd three-pointers from Bryant kept things interesting in the final seconds, but Denver ultimately held on for a 112-105 victory, L.A.’s 18th loss of the season, and the third in a row heading into a tough back-to-back at Houston and San Antonio. This one hurt, as L.A. played with solid energy throughout, but just couldn’t make it happen for a multitude of reasons like turnovers (18 to 10) and transition D (25 Nuggets fastbreak points). Bryant had 18 in the fourth quarter towards 27 total, Howard finished with 26 boards and Nash had 13 assists, in a losing effort. We’ll see you in Texas on Tuesday night.