3-0 after the All-Star Break, just one game from having that elusive .500 record, motivation gained from the death of their beloved owner – it looked like the Lakers were starting to get somewhere. Unfortunately, we’ve seen them “start to get somewhere” before, and it is games like tonight that quickly remind us (and the team) of just how far they have yet to travel.
The Lakers arrived in the midst of a snowstorm in Denver after defeating the Mavericks in Dallas yesterday. Having won just one of the last three contests against the Nuggets was no fluke. Their mission is to outrun their opponents, living and dying by the turnovers they attempt to cause and the fast break points they produce as a result. Tonight, against the Lakers would be no different. So despite finally gaining some traction in the standings, and starting to play like a team, the Lakers allowed Denver to create and then take over the pace of this game, and as a result, the road to .500 has been delayed yet again by a 119-108 loss.
LEAST OF THE LOW POINTS:
Kobe Bryant – The Denver crowd hates Bryant, boos each time he touches the ball and cheers with every shot he misses. Always one who likes to silence the masses, Bryant tried to do a little too much in the first quarter with a 1-7 clip. He did go 11-16 the rest of the game, hit 5-6 of his free throws, added in six rebounds and handed out nine assists. Nuggets’ defense loaded up on Bryant on every possession, so he continued his passing. Biggest negative? Four turnovers and a 14th technical for the season.
Dwight Howard – Howard managed to go 6-8 from the field for his 15 points, grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the game and blocked four shots. Negatives? 3-14 from the free throw line and he was blocked twice.
Steve Nash – Another good offensive night for Nash, who managed 16 points on 6-8 from the field and five assists. SIX turnovers though! Nash was throwing dangerous passes across the court, knowing full well that the Denver defense anticipates every passing lane. Sidenote: Nash is still dealing with some back issues.
Metta World Peace – After struggling with his offense lately, MWP managed to go 6-11 from the field for a 15-point, three-steal night.
Bench – Denver’s bench is fourth in the league in scoring at 39.7 ppg, but their rotation goes 11-players deep, with the Lakers using just Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake off the pine consistently as of late. Despite such a variance in depth and contribution, however, it has been these reserves who often breathe life into the Lakers’ game. In the first quarter, the three reserves owned 13 of the Lakers’ 29 points with some sharp shooting from downtown (4-5). Unfortunately, they scored just 12 more points in the final 36 minutes combined. Jamison led the reserves with his 14 points, a consistent contributor in this last stretch of wins.
WORST LOW POINTS:
Free Throws – The NBA should think of another term for free throws because, technically – they’re far from being “free.” The Denver Nuggets gave up 25 fouls to the Lakers’ 17, but it was all worth it because they faced a team who shoots just as awful from the charity stripe as they do. The Lakers attempted 31 free throws and converted just 14. 17 missed points. If they had hit even half of those misses, this game may have ended on a different note. It’s happened on more than one occasion this season, where the number of free throws that the Lakers missed either equals or outnumbers the variance of the final score. Last season, the Lakers were 16th in FT% at 76%. This season, they are 28th in the league, just below 70%.
Turnovers → Fast Break Points – The Nuggets constantly wait for their opponents to make an errant pass or miss their shots because it means they can rebound and run. Denver scored 33 fast break points. Surely the Lakers’ 15 turnovers helped their cause, as well as outrebounding the purple and gold 44-36. Both teams shot around the same percentage, Lakers 55.1%, Denver 55.7%, but it was
Points In The Paint – Most of those fast break points were, naturally, high percentage shots – layups and dunks. By halftime, Denver had outscored the Lakers 50-20 in the paint, and by the end of the game, it was a 78-50 difference inside.
Goaltend is the word – With all the high-flying antics to block shots, both teams were called for goaltending so often that it became hard to tell what deserved the call and what didn’t. Unfortunately, goaltending is not reviewable during the game.
The Lakers haven’t had a .500 record since they were 15-15 back in December, and for the first time since Kobe Bryant joined the team, the Lakers have reached 30 losses before they reached 30 wins. It’s not all that surprising since not much this season has gone in the Lakers’ favor. On a more positive note, the Lakers were once 17-25 so they’ve gone 11-5 since hitting that 8-game hole. Silver linings, people. Hold fast to them.