Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday 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:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Iguodala, W. Chandler*, K. Faried and K. Koufos
*Chandler was starting in place of Danilo Gallinari, scratched late with a thigh injury.
5:33 The game was pretty evenly matched in the opening minutes, with Denver leading 17-16 after Dwight Howard hit his first two free throws, as every Lakers starter had at least two points. In off the bench came Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, the former getting an immediate steal and the latter a corner three to give the Lakers the lead, continuing what’s been excellent bench play of late.
2:44 L.A. drained three consecutive triples as Meeks added another, but found themselves tied at 25 when the Nuggets threw their third alley-oop of the period, JaVale McGee throwing this one down, to give them 18 points in the paint. Steve Blake added the fourth three from the bench, but Denver continued to score at will in the paint, amassing 26 paint points to take a 35-29 lead out of the quarter.
10:14 Denver continued to run all over the place, turning consecutive Metta World Peace turnovers into layups, their 6-0 run (22-6 going back to the first quarter) allowing a 43-31 lead into a Lakers time out. The lead grew to 14 moments later, but L.A. responded with a 6-0 spurt – two buckets by Earl Clark – to cut it back to eight as Howard returned from the bench (he was a +2 in his nine first quarter minutes).
6:00 After hitting his first two foul shots, Howard missed three of four amidst another run from Denver that pushed the lead to 15 halfway through the period. The Lakers knew they had to take care of the ball and get back on D as keys to everything, but did neither: Denver had 16 fast break points already, and L.A. had eight turnovers to only two from the home team.
1:10 Broken record alert: Nash turned it over for the fifth time, many trying to get the ball to Howard in screen/roll action, and Denver converted a layup on the other end. Bryant found his way on offense to get the Lakers within eight nonetheless, but the Nuggets kept scoring, reaching 67 points to take a 13-point lead into halftime. To be down by 13 points while shooting 60 percent from the field seems ridiculous, but the 12 turnovers and complete lack of paint protection said a lot about it.
4:31 A Nash technical foul shot (defensive three seconds), then fading jump shot was erased by a corner three from Corey Brewer on Andre Iguodala’s 10th assist, and Iggy followed with a transition dunk on the next play to make it a 91-73 Nuggets lead, this one about over. Denver could not have been more excited to beat the Lakers, with George Karl saying this pregame: “I don’t think there is any question that we are human beings and the Lakers are the greatest NBA basketball team in our lifetimes and they have great players. I think it is pretty easy to get motivated for this game; I had butterflies early.” His players still played like that were the case.
0:00 Howard’s third block of the game on D resulted in two free throws from Bryant on the other end, cutting the margin to 95-83, but the Lakers had quite a bit of work to do, trailing by double digits in the altitude on the second end of a back-to-back.
9:39 L.A.’s second unit was getting stops, and thus the visitors had a chance to cut the lead to as few as seven, but Howard missed two more free throws (1 for 10 after making his first two) and was blocked at the rim. Jamison was also blocked at the rim, and both swats led to fast break buckets on the other end, the continued story of the game. So instead of 98-91, it was 102-89.
5:16 L.A. was quickly within seven, the closest they’d been since early in the first half, behind consecutive hoops from Bryant, up to 27 points (16 in the second half on 6 of 8 field goals). But the Nuggets kept coming, getting a late dagger three from Chandler (23 points, making L.A. wish Gallinari played, perhaps) to ultimately take a 119-108 win. It’s the first Lakers loss since the All-Star break, dropping them back to two games below .500. Kobe had 29 in the loss, and Howard 15 points, 14 boards and four blocks, though his 3 of 14 free throw shooting hurt. Up next is Minnesota on Thursday; we’ll see you there.