Tonight’s game was played by two completely different Laker teams in two completely different halves.
The team that played in the first two quarters were lively, played with their senses in tact and, as a result, built confidence on top of confidence.
The team in the third and fourth quarters looked lazy, careless, and, in effect, lost control of the game quickly. As a result, a 137-115 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
First Half – The way the Lakers played the first and second quarters, a win was more than attainable against a sub-.500 Denver team. Pau Gasol got off to an excellent start, leading the game with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, a steal and three blocks. He scored 12 of those 15 points in the first quarter; showing his professionalism yet again after a weekend of front office discussions with the Cavaliers to ship him off to Cleveland.
Kendall Marshall wasn’t the scoring machine he was a couple of days ago, but he is still a point guard – that he made perfectly clear. Just three points in the first half for Marshall, but he owned nine of the Lakers’ 17 assists (he had 15 in Friday’s game).
The Lakers shot 53% from the field and allowed Denver 46% shooting. Despite allowing the Nuggets eight offensive boards, the difference between the second chance points that resulted was just two points.
The home team also played a very clean game in that first half, turning the ball over just four times. They led by as much as nine points and led 61-60 at the break. Also, three Lakers had already scored in double figures by halftime – Gasol’s 15, Jodie Meeks with 14 and Nick Young with 13.
Second Half – As well as the Lakers played the first half, they played the second equally…bad. Gone was efficiency on offense, and along with it, the energy to defend.
Gasol played nine minutes in the third quarter and scored just two points on 1-5 from the field. Despite finishing the game with a double-double, 25 points and 10 rebounds, his second half produced just four rebounds and zero assists.
After a 17-assist on 25 field goals kind of first half, the Lakers handed out just nine dimes, eight of which were Marshall’s. The ball movement disappeared in the final two quarters and, as expected, so did the efficient offense. The three wasn’t falling tonight, but the Lakers continued to shoot it anyway, hitting just 3-21 for the game, and just 1-12 in the last two quarters. While Denver went 61% from the field in the second half, pounding the paint to the tune of 34 points, the home team handily shot themselves right out of the game.
With just four turnovers in the first two quarters, a clean night on the floor seemed within reach, but the Lakers had 11 turnovers in the second half, which resulted in 23 points for Denver. Moreover, this carelessness also allowed the Nuggets to run, and they scored 22 fast break points (compared to their first-half eight points) as a result.
Denver’s second, third and fourth quarter tallies are as follows: 34, 33 and 44. 44 fourth quarter points! Seven Nuggets scored in double figures by the game’s end.
After such a solid win on Friday night, which broke a long losing streak, the hope was that the Lakers would start the year anew; perhaps start a winning streak for a change. Sadly, they let another winnable game go, and now they’ve got three road games ahead – Dallas, Houston and the Clippers.