Lakers comeback falls short against Nuggets, 114-106

The Nuggets are now 2-0 against the Lakers this season.

LOS ANGELES — After a very eventful day, the Lakers couldn’t close Kobe Bryant Day with a win.

The defending champion Denver Nuggets came into Crypto Dot Com Arena and did what they’re supposed to do: beat their Western Conference Final match-up from last year as they make their way towards a title defense. The final score was 114-106.

With D’Angelo Russell being held out after its own eventful situation, Max Christie started for the guard that was a heavy trade rumor up until the deadline.

Denver got off to a quick 10-2 start as everyone in their starting line-up got a bucket (including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s replacement, Justin Holiday). The Lakers bench were able to tie it at 23 but the Nuggets’ own bench in Christian Braun and Peyton Watson made back-to-back threes to end the quarter with a 29-23 Denver lead.

Taurean Prince gave the Lakers a boost with his shooting in that first half but we know the Nuggets are potent themselves in that department. Jamal Murray, who killed the Lakers in those West Finals, made two threes late in the first half and help give the Nuggets a 59-49 lead going into the break.

Denver boosted the lead to 15 before the Lakers seemingly woke up from their slumber. LeBron James made a couple of three-pointers to set things in motion. Then Anthony Davis gave the Lakers a 9-2 kick to finish the third period and suddenly, the Lakers were only down, 83-79, entering the fourth.

Jaxson Hayes came off the bench and kept the Lakers within distance. Anthony Davis finally tied the game at 94. It was a battle of wills afterwards and Austin Reaves made a three to even it up again at 104. But Murray and Michael Porter Jr. erased all the Laker hopes with a 10-0 backbreaking run in under a minute and a half. The Lakers would fall short against Denver yet again.

On one hand, it’s disappointing the Lakers couldn’t win in the day the team revealed the first of three Kobe Bryant statues. We’ve gone ad nauseum about how the Lakers have been inconsistent and how it’s been the most frustrating for this squad.

On the other hand, the Lakers did with what they could with the cards dealt. Jarred Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent, who are two of the better defenders, were out. D’Angelo Russell was also out and, sometimes, the Laker offense looked like a cafeteria after a food fight. And then they also lost Max Christie in the first half due to an ankle sprain. It’s admirable that, despite all the missing players and game botches, they were still able to tie the game with two minutes left in the game.

But as I’ve said before, no team is going to feel sorry for another team’s injuries. Teams will play whoever is put in front of them and Denver did just that. They took advantage of the open threes that they got and they baffled the Lakers with beautiful ball movement. Nuggets also used their size to outrebound the Lakers by 11. They’re the champions for a reason.

Anthony Davis was everywhere on the court as he finished with 32 points, 9 rebounds, three assists, four blocks, and three steals. Too bad, it still wasn’t enough. LeBron had 25-9-7 while Austin Reaves finished with a double-double (15 points, 10 assists). As for the visiting team, Jamal Murray finished with 29-7-11. Michael Porter, Jr. was a menace with 27 points and 8 rebounds while the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic had 24-13-9.

Well, the Lakers don’t have much time to mope as they’re right back at it on Friday night as they take on the New Orleans Pelicans. As it’s been said before, they gotta have short memories and move on to the next game. Hopefully, they’ll get a different result this time before they go on to have a rare three-day break.