DENVER -- Amnesty THAT … game?
After rallying for an emotional win in Dallas Sunday afternoon, then having a little fun at Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's suggestion that the Lakers should use the amnesty clause on the final year and $30.5 million of his contract, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers had a game to forget against the Denver Nuggets Monday night, losing 119-108.
The loss snapped the Lakers' modest three-game win streak out of the All-Star break and dropped them two games below .500 and three games behind the Houston Rockets for eighth place in the Western Conference.
Bryant missed six of his first seven shots and picked up his league-leading 14th technical foul of the season on his way off the court at the end of the first half. He eventually found his scoring stroke, finishing with 29 points on 12-for-23 shooting and nine assists. But Denver's high-octane attack was just too much, too fast and too relentless for the Lakers to overcome.
How it happened: The Nuggets controlled the pace of this game from the start and basically ran the Lakers off the court in the first half, scoring 22 fast-break points and 48 of their 67 first-half points in the paint while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.
The Lakers stayed as close as they did because they shot 60 percent from the field in the first half. But Denver had 13 more field goal attempts (48-35) and was able to build a 13-point lead at the break that proved insurmountable for the Lakers.
What it means: The Lakers (28-30) had a chance to get back to .500 on the season and to close to within two games of idle Houston, but this loss put them right back where they were at the start of this trip and helped Denver (36-22) inch closer to the fourth-place Memphis Grizzlies (37-18).
Hits: Steve Nash continues to look for his own shot, this time finishing with 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. He has been dealing with a sore lower back for the past week, but has obviously learned to manage it well.
"He plays through everything," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Nash before the game. "He might struggle out there a little bit, but just his brains and his ability to do things. Even if he's struggling, he'll find a way to be positive, and that's kind of what we need."
Misses: The Lakers fell back into a lot of the bad habits and game play that plagued them earlier in the season, turning the ball over far too much (15), failing to get back in transition and missing too many free throws. The Lakers were 14-for-31 from the free throw line. Dwight Howard made just three of his 14 attempts.
Stat of the game: The Nuggets were off to the races Monday night; the Lakers were mostly spectators. Denver averages 19.2 fast-break points per game. It had 22 fast-break points in the first half and 33 in the game.
What's next: The Lakers get a day off Tuesday and a practice day on Wednesday before hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night at Staples Center. The rest couldn't come at a better time for three veterans -- Steve Nash (back), Kobe Bryant (shoulder) and Antawn Jamison (wrist) -- who are nursing injuries.