It was good while it lasted.
The Lakers had a five-game win streak stopped as the Denver Nuggets even up their season series and beat the Lakers, 122-109.
It was already tough for L.A. coming in. They learned that LeBron James wasn’t playing due to ankle soreness. That’s in addition to not having Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves, and Troy Brown, Jr.
For the entire game, the Lakers were playing from behind. The Nuggets would get a lead and the Lakers would try to make a run, only for Denver to come back with a bigger run. The runs seemed to get larger for Denver as the game progressed.
The Lakers had plenty of chances as the Nuggets seemed content to let them hang around. And Nikola Jokic wasn’t exactly looking for his shot (officially five field goal attempts!) but he certainly was looking to get everyone involved. But the Lakers didn’t capitalize as they had their own problems on offense, too. They couldn’t make shots, they didn’t move the ball often enough, and there was too much one-on-one and pressing from some individuals.
It all kind of got away from the Lakers in the second quarter. They didn’t score a field goal for about four minutes as Denver took advantage and went on a 10-0 run. Denver led the Lakers by 14 at the half.
The Lakers didn’t give up as they were able to cut the deficit to five. And then the Nuggets scored another 10 unanswered points. L.A. never really threatened again and Denver stays #1 in the West.
It was honestly a messy game from both teams. It’s just that the Lakers had little margin for error with their roster decimated. They would also lose Patrick Beverley after the half as he hurt his hip when he slid under the rim.
Russell Westbrook led the team with a 25-7-7 line but he also had 7 turnovers and it felt like he was pressing a lot. Thomas Bryant went for 17 points and 10 boards but he didn’t feel as impactful as previous games. Kendrick Nunn had 15 but felt he tried to do too much by himself. Max Christie played with poise in his first start; he scored 14. Dennis Schröder also ended with 14 but shot badly (3 for 13). It was also nice to see Cole Swider get in a couple of threes.
As for Denver, again, it felt like they messed around a bit, which opened up opportunities for the Lakers. But L.A. just couldn’t take advantage. Jamal Murray had his best scoring game of the season with 34 points. Ex-Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went for 16 points. And Nikola Jokic ended with a triple-double at 14-11-16. Again, he only attempted five shots… and he made all of them.
The Lakers didn’t turn the ball over as much as the Nuggets did (Denver had 17 turnovers compared to L.A.’s 13). But the Lakers didn’t take advantage of those extra possessions; Denver still had more points off turnovers than L.A. did (23-15). Denver also had more fast break points than the Lakers, 21-11.
Even if the Lakers had a full squad, they’d have trouble with this Denver team. But they didn’t have five rotation players (and it became 6 after halftime) so it made it even more of a climb for the Lakers against the team from the Mile High City.
The Lakers fall back to 12th with a 19-22 as they are now halfway through the regular season. Still, I’ve mentioned how packed the standings are in the West. As of right now, they’re still only 2.5 games (probably three after the night is over; the Kings are destroying the Magic as of this writing) behind the 5th-seeded Sacramento team.
If they can get everyone healthy as soon as possible (and if they make some moves before the trading deadline), the Lakers could be a very interesting second half team.
And they’ll start that second half with a home game against Dallas on Thursday.