It’s been like clockwork for these Lakers this season. They get an impressive win, and then follow it up with a stinker. After besting the Dallas Mavericks in their first meeting since getting eliminated from last year’s playoffs, they were clobbered by the Heat in Miami. A huge win the following week against the Clippers, was followed by a loss to a short-handed Bucks team in Milwaukee. After a gritty, hard-fought victory in Boston, they lost in a poor effort in New York against the Knicks. After defeating Miami at Staples during a Sunday afternoon game, they dropped two in a row against the super-sub-.500 Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. Last week, the Lakers took the season series away from the Clippers and then lost their season series to both the Houston Rockets, who are seventh in the West and the Phoenix Suns, who are still fighting to make a playoff berth. After that thumping they gave the second seed San Antonio Spurs, a letdown tonight would have been disappointing, but it wouldn’t have been surprising. Fortunately for us, no letdown was in sight.
With the post-season just six games away, now is as good a time as any to break those bad habits and adopt new ones, especially if they involve winning. After an inspiring win in San Antonio, the Lakers met the Denver Nuggets tonight and continued their mission to finish off the regular season on the right foot going into the playoffs. Absent for tonight’s game was Coach Mike Brown, who had to head home before tip-off to take care of a family matter, but in his stead was assistant coach, John Keuster.
After the first quarter, it looked like the Lakers had picked up where they left off a couple of days ago, getting what they wanted on offense (52% from the field with Andrew Bynum’s 10 points leading the way), because of what they were doing on defense (allowing Denver to convert just 35% of their shots). They outscored the Nuggets 30-19 before Denver finally woke up.
For the final three quarters, the Lakers’ lead oscillated from double to single digits, until it reached a single point late in the game. With Mr. Fourth Quarter, Kobe Bryant, sitting on the bench in his suit for the fourth game in a row, the Lakers’ guardian angel for the night came to the rescue in the form of Matt Barnes. Andrew Bynum may have led the game with his 30 points, and Metta World Peace kept them in the game in the first half, but the final quarter belonged to Barnes’ nine points on 4-5 from the field.