December 3, 2017, 2:34 pm
Los Angeles is in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule and the front end of a back-to-back. This was a game the Lakers needed to win, this was a game they should have won. Instead, the Lakers played a game rife with errors and mental lapses and lost to a Nuggets team missing their two best frontcourt players, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap.
The Lakers tried to press their advantage at center from the onset, trying to get Brook Lopez involved from the get-go leading to a 4-0 lead. The Nuggets backcourt, and in particular Jamal Murray, took over from there sparking a 15-2 run. Murray finished the quarter with 14 points, one rebound, one assist and plus-6 rating. He was more aggressive than Lonzo Ball, forcing multiple turnovers and influencing the game significantly more than the Lakers mild mannered rookie.
Los Angeles didn’t fully wake up until the bench entered the game led by Julius Randle and Josh Hart. Randle scored eight points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first period with a plus-5 rating in the game. Hart had three points, one steal, two assists, one rebound and a plus-5 rating as well.
After the bench helped stem the tide of the Nuggets onslaught, the starters came back in and played a productive stretch including a 19-5 run culminating in a 53-47 lead. Unfortunately that run was offset by a series of miscues fueling a 6-0 Denver run and narrowing the Laker lead, a pattern the Lakers would continue throughout the evening.
Los Angeles and Denver would take turns with short runs throughout the third quarter and beginning of the fourth until the Nuggets took advantage of the Lakers’ poor play and ran away with the game. Denver outscored the Lakers 37-20 in the fourth quarter including a run of 26-7 and scoring the last 15 points of the game. The Lakers could simply not execute down the stretch. This game was a far cry from their strong effort in a loss to the Warriors this past Wednesday.
Ball struggled in particular in this game as he turned the ball over five times and was badly outplayed by his counterpart. Murray finished with 28 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-8 from 3-point range. Ball did accrue nine points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a minus-15 rating while shooting a decent 4-of-10 from the floor. However those stats did not belie the true tale of the tape was Murray was a huge positive for his team while Ball was effective in short spurts while committing back breaking errors.
Gary Harris played a great game for Denver with 13 points, four steals, six assists, two rebounds and a plus-22 rating. He was joined by teammates Kenneth Faried who contributed 13 points and nine rebounds. Will Barton also stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, four blocks, ones steal, six rebounds and two assists. Other contributors included Trey Lyles who had 18 points and three rebounds as well as Mason Plumlee who added 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Lakers statistics were as underwhelming as their performance. Brandon Ingram followed a career-high 32 points with 20 points, four rebounds, one steal, five turnovers and a remarkable minus-26 rating.
Brook Lopez tried to be aggressive from the beginning finishing with 15 points, three assists, five rebounds and one block.
Kyle Kuzma returned after missing one game with back spasms to produce 13 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three turnovers on 5-of-13 from the floor.
Perhaps the only Laker to exceed expectations on the evening was Hart who tied a career-high with nine points and three 3-pointers. He added two steals, one block, two assists, three rebounds and a plus-6 rating.
The Lakers need to play with more consistent focus and energy if they hope to compete against any opponent, let alone Houston in the second half of their back-to-back on Sunday.
Stats and Observations
- The Lakers turned the ball over 21 times compared to just 12 for the Nuggets. Los Angeles turned the ball over seven times in the fourth quarter alone.
- Los Angeles entered the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the league and did not disappoint hitting only 9-of-30 from distance for 30.0 percent. Conversely, they allowed Denver to shoot 12-of-31 from downtown good for 38.7 percent.
- One edge the Lakers continued to maintain was their advantage on the glass as they out-rebounded the Nuggets 52-39. This would be more impressive if the Nuggets weren’t missing their top two frontcourt players or if the Lakers had pressed this advantage in a victory.
- The Lakers shot 15-of-21 from the free throw line for 71.4 percent while Denver shot 23-of-28 from the line good for 82.1 percent.
- Los Angeles did not bring the energy tonight losing both hustle stats to the tune of eight-five steals, and six-two blocks.
- The Lakers were out assisted 26-21.
The Lakers head home to take on the Western Conference leading Houston Rockets. While the Lakers will have only a few hours to recuperate from their mediocre Saturday night effort, the Rockets have had three days off. Houston, at 17-4, is playing at an elite level behind MVP candidate James Harden who is averaging 31.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocks. Both of his shooting percentages are up from last year at 45.1 percent from the field and 86.6 percent from the line. He is joined in the backcourt by perennial All-Star Chris Paul. Hopefully the Lakers take umbrage from their lackluster performance on Saturday and step up to the task of terminating their four-game losing streak.