This game began much the same way that many Laker games of late seem to begin — with the Lakers appearing ready to play, moving the ball, getting offensive rebounds for second chance points and then, as fast as you can say “altitude,” they are suddenly down by nine.

Three-point shooting, again, affected the Lakers tonight — those that Denver shot with ease, and those that the visiting team simply could not hit.

After Carmelo Anthony let one loose from beyond the arc, Phil Jackson immediately called a timeout, lashing at his team as they made their way to the bench. Shooters seemed to be wide open all over the court.

The second quarter started with a Carmelo drive directly to the basket with not one player in Purple and Gold standing in his way. It took 20 shots for ‘Melo to get his 31 points, but the Lakers’ defense against him was not as potent as it had been in that fourth quarter the last time these two teams met. Perhaps Ron Artest, assigned to ‘Melo watch, was in more of an offensive groove tonight.

In the absence of Kobe Bryant, it was Ron who helped Pau Gasol on the offensive end, shooting 7-11, three from downtown.

Helping ‘Melo carry the offensive weight tonight was J.R. Smith off the bench. As smug and cocky as any professional athlete can be, J.R. Smith is, at the very least, a dependable source of offense for Denver off the bench. He thinks he can shoot over anyone, blow past anyone, and defend against anyone. And as hated as he is by so many Laker fans, at least he has stats to back up his talk, which is more than can be said for the Laker reserves.

At the end of the first half, it was Laker Bench 12, J.R. Smith – 16.

Mental lapses occurred from every which way in this game and that, above all else, is what earned the Lakers this loss, and forces them to bid farewell to the 60-game season that Phil challenged them to attain.

Having shot a mere 38.1% from the field, the Lakers missed some unbelievably easy shots. On a fast break pass from a running Sasha Vujacic to a sprinting Ron Artest, Ron, caught between a lay-up and a dunk, barely hopped a few inches from the floor and hit nothing but rim. Pau Gasol, half a foot from the rim and with no Nugget taller than him around the hoop, tries to float one rather than dunking it, and it’s blocked. In the fourth quarter, Jordan Farmar, penetrated to the basket and missed an uncontested lay-up.

The third quarter was an efficient one for the Lakers. Their defense perked up and allowed only 16 Denver points to their 27. Shannon Brown finally made his first shot, a three, and it was followed by another one from behind the arc by Ron. Lamar Odom, who had a quiet offensive effort, fought for an offensive rebound midway through the quarter and laid it up quickly. Suddenly they were behind by only two points. After a steal and signature Shannon dunk, the game was tied.

Laker fans at Pepsi Arena cheered just as loudly as the home crowd and it appeared that momentum had shifted in favor of the road team.

The fourth quarter, however, is where the Lakers missed Kobe the most. In his absence, Sasha had found his rhythm, hitting three from downtown and yes, Ron was more aggressive with his offense. But who would take over and close this game out? Ahead by seven points in the fourth, who would step up and lead this team to a victory? It appeared to be a group effort, with Sasha hitting his shots, Jordan Farmar following a timely three-pointer with a block against a Chauncey Billups attempt and Shannon Brown playing as best as he can with the injured thumb.

However, with 32.1 seconds on the clock, and Denver ahead by one point, who would play the man of clutch?

After J.R. Smith missed his first free throw, then made his second, the Lakers did not call a timeout, instead deciding to inbound from full-court, and either attempt a shot for the overtime, or go for the win.

Derek Fisher, ever the fearless leader, dribbled to the right, then to his left and at the point of launching a shot that, for his record, would have probably gone in, was blocked. Buzzer sounded, game over. Denver wins the season series 3-1.

It’s difficult to decide what exactly to take from this game. On the one hand, the Lakers fought back and weren’t blown out of the arena, despite missing two key players in Kobe and Andrew. On the other hand, there was a small part of every fan watching that knew which team this game meant more to and, in effect, would probably win because their desire was greater.

Hopefully, when this next week and a half is over, the Lakers will have that desire too.

Pre-game Thoughts: Hopefully the 3 days off have given the Lakers some time to get re-energized to pull off this win against Denver, even without Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant

Half-time Thoughts: 47-57, Denver. The Nuggets are playing almost effortlessly. Hopefully the Lakers can do to Smith in the second half, what they did to contain George Hill.

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Any player wearing Purple on the floor when the Lakers were up by 7. Too many mental lapses and missed opportunities pulled the Nuggets right back into the game.

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Pau Gasol had another big game with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists, but Ron Artest really filled in for Kobe’s absence, tying his season high of 22 points, and adding 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

  • lakers4life372417

    It would have been nice to see a TO called and have a set play for the last second shot to win it.

    • Al

      That's the idiot coach we have.

      • Anthony_Effe

        Sometimes I get the feeling we don't know how smart Phil Jackson is, but last night boggles the mind. What could he have been thinking? There is no Kobe out on the floor to run the, but still he decides to let them play it out. You could tell from the moment they got to the front court that it was going to be a bad shot.

        My thoughts? Give it to Odom, let him drive and he could either go up for a shot or make a good play to one of the shooters. I don't mind that Fish took that shot because he's shown in the past that he can make the big shots, but he's never been a one on one shooter.

        Who's still watching these games and reacting like it's the end of the world? Honestly these guys don't look like they care at all for the rest of this regular season. Why should I?

    • daboss1848

      Lots to be proud of (at least one half worth). Fantastic team D, team O (at least one half worth). Shannon made a couple bone head lazy plays (sagging on baseline to triple a penetrating Melo, leaving chauncey wide open for a three; obviously saving the ball by lobbing it to Fish, when LO is 1 ft away).

      But this game boils down to PJ and his refusal to be a coach in closing seconds even with KB out.

      As is, it was a nice statement. But, if we win last nights game w/o KB – that wouldve been huge!!!!

      • Cody

        How was PHIL's coaching bad? He didn't call a TO because that gives denver to set up there defence. There was what like 14 seconds left? That is plenty of time to go to work. Even tho DEREK should have shot that shot earlier it was a good call by the the 10 timer.

  • L.A Lakers GO !!!

    what is wrong with this team … repeat is a mission impossible … sigh …

  • barryc

    artest may have gone 7-11 but the only moment that sticks in the mind is his getting stuffed by the rim on a weak (and uncontested) layup attempt. but better him than seeing kobe do that.

    • airkobe

      I misses ARIZA he's more fun to watch!

      • Green Flannel

        We just witnessed what Ron can do as a primary scorer. He can hit tough shots, drive (don't bring up the layup. FLUKE! :)) and he can create shots for himself and others. Trevor couldn't really create his own shots effectively like Ron-Ron.

  • Won A Ring For The King

    All you Lamar Odumb fans and defenders, where's your guy when this team needs him?
    What a Loser. Lamar Odumb sucks.
    Cavs in 6.

    • airkobe

      odomb should be traded to noah!!!! yeah cavs in 6 vs toronto or bulls….lebron the true ballhog!

    • magic beats cavs

      can't beat the champs in a 7 game series tho

      • Toni

        In as much as I detest Matt Barnes, I would rather cheer for Orlando than to support the “King without the Ring!”

    • Green Flannel

      Cavs in 6 if they don't play the Lake show. And i'm right here cheering on Lamar. Shoulder injury is definetley starting to effect him. We aren't even being beaten by other teams, just ourselves.

    • Cody

      You act like cleveland won last night.

    • Anne

      Smells like it's going to be another Orlando sweep again. – Sorry Princess James!!!

  • yomine05

    They played well. The game was close. You guys seem to have forgotten how hard it is to play in Denver. I'm sure Phil feels good about the effort…compared to past games. No Kobe… and they lost by 2… in a very very hostile place…. against a team that's always ready to take their heads off. lol. I think this guys are back to being focused. I saw urgency and focus. When was the last time Sasha made that many shots in a game???????? Pau was dominant offisively. Even Fisher played well. I know it was a loss… but I was impressed. I think it's a good loss. Right now the W's don't really matter as much… i think it's more about the effort.

    • Green Flannel

      i like the game. but phil did not like they're play. the gaurds' shooting was horrid. all of the focus was in the third quarter. if we kept it up the enitre game? 10+ point win.

      Oh yeah. When has sasha made that many shots? The last time he played that long. Sasha is good, he just never can prove himself.

      • Green Flannel

        their. typing to fast.

      • airkobe

        sasha has confidence and that is what I like on him shooters must keep shooting to get their rhythm, but if you take his confidence out of his game he will suck, and with this lakers team right now he don't have enough time to show it with brown, farmar gets their playing time and with kobe of course..Lakers have too many players that want to score only and don't committed their self in defense which is ron trying to be..they need players that plays hassle like ariza and if you watch noahs game agains that cavs he might can be. remember luc longley is not a scorer…you choose gasol or bynum? One must go!!

  • LAxALLxDAYx310

    Was I having a bad dream last night, or did Phil at one point late in the game have Sasha, Farmar, and Fisher all out on the court at the same time??? I think PJ needs to get up off his ass and actually start coaching. Last night was a prime example. Late in the game with a chance to tie, instead of calling for a timeout he opts to go ahead and play through, if there was a play call decided before, why in the hell would it be an iso for DEREK FISHER? Why not put in Farmar, or Brown, someone who can at least get their shot off by themselves. Fisher has been our weakest link this whole season, and SOMETHING needs to be done about it. I'm just saying, this whole “cool” attitude that the Lakers are playing with is rubbed off of our head coach. And it won't work like that anymore with all these hungry teams out there. WAKE UP LAKERS!

    • Cody

      He had those players in because they were hitting there shots. We didn't call a time out because by doing this it gives us a better chance to get a shot up vs calling a timeout and having denver set up there defence. But DEREK should maybe have taken that shot earlier. And I agree with you on our whole “cool” attitude the we are playing with. IT's JUST BULLSHIT!!!!!!! Hopefully we can pull our heads out and blow this minnesota team out the fucking building tonight.

  • Pingback: TLN’s Postgame Report: Lakers @ Nuggets – Careless Ways (112-118, Loss) | Sports Journey

  • Pingback: TLN’s Postgame Report: Lakers @ Nuggets: The Undistracted (107-97, Win) | Sports Journey