The Denver Nuggets traveled to Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Lakers for a one-game road trip on Sunday night. Both teams just ended lengthy losing streaks and looked to build a winning streak. This also marked the first regular season game as an opposing head coach for Brian Shaw in Los Angeles.
Denver started the game strong, even going on an 8-0 run including a 3-pointer each for Ty Lawson and Randy Foye and were up 12-4. Foye has rediscovered his shooting stroke after slumping lately. The Lakers went on a 10-0 run of their own to lead 14-12 with just under 6 minutes to play in the first period. The two teams took turns going on runs in the first quarter. The Lakers would build up a lead and the Nuggets would come charging back. Lawson finished the quarter with 7 points and 3 assists, while Foye had 5 points on 2 of 3 shooting. L.A. led 29-26 after the first quarter.
Kendall Marshall was signed by the Lakers back in December but did not get his first start until Friday night when the Lakers snapped their six-game losing streak. Marshall put up 20 points and pulled down 15 rebounds in that one. He did not have quite the same type of performance as an encore in the first half of this game as he had 3 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds. The Nuggets and Lakers continued to take turns going on runs in the second quarter and traded the lead a few times.
Kenneth Faried was the high points man for the Nuggets in the second quarter with 8 and threw down a powerful alley-00p dunk with 1:08 left in the half to give Denver a two-point lead. Faried also grabbed 6 rebounds in the quarter.
Denver’s bench is the second highest scoring reserve unit in the NBA and Nate Robinson showed why with 9 points in the second quarter in just over six minutes of play. Timofey Mozgov added 6 points in just over four minutes in the second and was the Nuggets leading scorer at halftime with 10 points. Pau Gasol was the high man for L.A. with 15 points as the Lakers took a 61-60 advantage into the locker room.
Denver came out focused to begin the third quarter starting off on a 19-6 run to take a 79-67 lead. Of course, the Lakers came charging back into this game behind Jordan Hill to get within four points of the Nuggets. However, Denver closed out on a 12-6 run to finish the third quarter up 93-83. Lawson had 9 points and 5 assists in the period for the Nuggets to go with Wilson Chandler‘s 8 points as Denver outscores the Lakers 33-22 in the third period. This team definitely looks more solid with Mozgov in the lineup, he continues to be the best big man for the Nuggets.
During the third quarter news broke that Andre Miller was being actively shopped by the Nuggets following last week’s altercation during the loss to Philadelphia.
— Denver Post Sports (@DenverSportNews) January 6, 2014
Miller is on personal leave from the team after the Nuggets rescinded his two-game suspension before Friday night’s game against Memphis. This will be an interesting store to watch as it progresses for Denver. It is surprising that he was not moved sooner after the team acquired backup point guard, Robinson in the offseason.
The Nuggets continued to be focused to start the fourth quarter and went on a 14-4 run to make it 107-87 behind the strong play of Mozgov and Robinson. During a timeout in the fourth quarter with the Nuggets up 20, the players could be seen smiling with Coach Shaw, a vast difference in the demeanor of this team just less than a week ago. Shaw went with the same nine-man rotation against the Lakers that he used in the Memphis win. Jordan Hamilton, Anthony Randolph and Quincy Miller were the odd men out, thought they each played meaningless minutes once the game was well in hand. Evan Fournier scored 12 points and had a career-high 7 rebounds in his second game back in the main rotation following the Nuggets team meeting in which roles were supposedly defined.
Lawson continued his role as the Nuggets best player this season, posting his ninth double-double of the season. He scored 20 points and dropped 12 dimes. Mozgov finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds while Robinson had 21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals as the Nuggets turned the fourth quarter into a track meet scoring 44 points after 11 lead changes and 15 ties through the first three quarters. Denver finished with 30 fastbreak points, easily their highest total of the season and they run away with the win here, 137-115. The only player to not score for the Nuggets was the recently irrelevant Hamilton.
Final Impressions: while it is always fun to see the Nuggets beat the Lakers, this is not the real Lakers and it is yet another sub-.500 team that Denver has defeated this season. It is great to see the Nuggets get back on track and put a couple wins together in a row, but the litmus test for their post-losing-streak progress should be Thursday night against the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.
Next up for the Nuggets is a return home to play the Boston Celtics in their only Denver appearance at 7pm (MST). Jordan Morey will have your post-game analysis.