Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 126, Lakers 114
By Dave McMenamin
DENVER -- Heading to the altitude of Denver for the second night of a back-to-back after playing at home on Christmas looked like a tall task when the NBA schedule was released in the summer. The challenge proved to be too much for the Los Angeles Lakers, who had their five-game win streak snapped and fell back under .500 at 14-15.
How it happened: After the Lakers kept things close in the first half, Denver exploded for a 39-point quarter in the third, with Corey Brewer (27 points) surprisingly being the one doing most of the damage. It was the same type of big quarter that teams like Houston, New York and Oklahoma City had hit the Lakers with back before their five-game win streak and it was discouraging to see, especially considering their defense looked so good in the fourth quarter Tuesday when they held the high-scoring Knicks to just 16 points.
What it means: The Lakers had a chance to go one game over .500 for the first time since they were 6-5, but will have to try to restart their momentum after facing their first bit of adversity since Steve Nash returned. Also, L.A. is now just 5-9 on the road, which needs to improve if the Lakers are going to make a run at getting a decent playoff seed.
Hits: Nash started off the game 6-for-6 from the field and finished with 15 points and eight assists. Kobe Bryant (40 points) extended his 30-point streak to 10 straight games, but L.A. is now 0-4 this season when Bryant scores 40-plus points.
Misses: After putting up 28 points and 20 rebounds in the Lakers' last meeting with the Nuggets, Dwight Howard was a dud Wednesday. He finished with just 12 points and seven rebounds (and went just 4-for-9 from the free-throw line) before being ejected for picking up a flagrant-2 foul with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter after hitting Kenneth Faried in the face on a drive by the Nuggets' big man.
Metta World Peace fouled out for the second straight game and shot just 4-for-13 from the field for 10 points after having back-to-back 20-point games coming into Wednesday.
Stat of the night: Faried had 11 points and nine rebounds in the first quarter with five of the boards coming on the offensive glass.
What's next: The Lakers return to L.A. for four straight games at the Staples Center starting Friday against the scrappy Portland Trail Blazers (13-13). They'll have Thursday off after playing a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday.