Friday, March 7, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 134, Lakers 126
By Dave McMenamin
DENVER -- After suffering the most lopsided loss in the 67-year history of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, coach Mike D'Antoni vowed for a change in Denver on Friday night.
"I expect a whole different team," D'Antoni said of his Lakers.
After giving up an average of 137 points in their past two home losses, turns out the only thing different about Friday was the venue.
For yet another night, the Lakers' defense proved to be about as effective as a screen door on a submarine.
Led by Ty Lawson's relentless drives and improved outside touch (the point guard had 30 points, 17 assists and shot 5-for-6 on 3-pointers), Denver did whatever it wanted to on offense and ran the Lakers off the floor.
Sure, the Lakers didn't allow the Nuggets to score 137 points, but 134 points got the job done just the same.
As disappointing as the 48-point drubbing on Thursday was, it could be accepted on some level because the Los Angeles Clippers are clearly a better team than the Lakers.
That's not the case with the Nuggets, however. Much like how the Lakers proved to be the salve that fixed the New Orleans Pelicans earlier in the week, playing sacrificial lamb to end Nola's eight-game losing streak, they also played Denver's doormat, as the Nuggets had lost 11 of 13 coming into Friday.
A popular question being asked after the Clippers game was whether the Lakers had already quit on the season with 20 games left. While the result against the Nuggets was discouraging, there was no evidence to suggest that the purple and gold are already packing it in.
There are too many individual agendas at stake. With a roster composed of 12 out of 15 players on expiring deals, there will be nights like the Nuggets game the rest of the season when a Ryan Kelly (24 points, 11 rebounds) or Xavier Henry (10 points, five rebounds, two steals) impresses, but it's just not going to translate to wins.
How it happened: Denver jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter, setting the tone for another long night for L.A. The Lakers tried to get back into it in the second quarter with Jordan Farmar scoring eight of his 24 points in the period to draw L.A. within two at one point, but Denver used a 13-3 run to push the lead back to 11 at the half. The Nuggets went on to lead by as many as 23 in the second half as they coasted to victory.
What it means: For one, there is a reason Phil Jackson used to call games like Friday -- the second night of a back-to-back against a run-and-gun team -- a "scheduled loss." It wouldn't have mattered who was coaching the Lakers in a situation like this -- Jackson included -- the challenge the Nuggets presented was as tough as it gets in the NBA. In other words, an eight-point loss to the Nuggets, all things considered, is not a bad bounce-back effort from L.A.
Hits: Pau Gasol kept up his scoring ways, dropping in a team-high 27 points on 12-for-21 shooting.
Kendall Marshall broke out of his slump ever so slightly with eight points (on 3-for-9 shooting) and 16 assists.
Misses: As good as Lawson was, Kenneth Faried might have been even better, finishing with 32 points on 14-for-20 shooting and 13 rebounds.
The Lakers were outscored 64-50 in the paint by the Nuggets.
Stat of the game: 14-for-24. The Nuggets shot better from the 3-point line (58.3 percent) than they did on free throws, going 12-for-21 (57.1 percent).
Up next: What's the Lakers' reward after playing four games in five nights? How about a pair of games -- one at home Sunday, followed by one on the road Thursday -- against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference in the Oklahoma City Thunder? No rest for the weary.