Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton anticipated there would be added energy at Staples Center because of recent acts by Jamal Murray, and Walton was correct as Murray was booed in pregame introductions and each time he touched the ball.
Not that it appeared to have a negative impact on the second-year guard, however. And if the Lakers shot as well as fans voiced their vitriol, they likely would’ve run away with the game instead of grinding out a 112-103 victory.
L.A. began the night cold from the field but thanks to Brook Lopez and Julius Randle, overcame the shooting struggles to lead 35-22 at the end of the first quarter. But they regressed, managing only three baskets and 13 points in the second quarter.
That was compounded by the fact that the Lakers turned the ball over 10 times in the quarter. Nonetheless, they went into halftime with a slim lead.
That was quickly erased as Denver came out firing and led by as many as 13. If not for Kyle Kuzma shaking off a horrendous first half by scoring 16 points in the third, the Lakers would’ve found themselves facing a much larger climb.
They closed the quarter on an 8-0 run, leaving them in position to complete the comeback victory. After chipping away, Lonzo Ball’s 3-pointer gave the Lakers a 90-89 lead. It was just Ball’s second field goal to that point, and his first from deep as he had been 0-for-6.
Having gone to the locker room to have his right ankle re-taped before the start of the fourth quarter, Kuzma was hobbled but white hot. He made three consecutive shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped the Lakers create some separation.
When the Nuggets cut into their deficit and as the Lakers continued to miss free throws, Isaiah Thomas came up with multiple clutch baskets. Kuzma finished tied for the team-high with 26 points, adding 13 rebounds and two assists.
Randle produced a third double-double in the last four games with his 26 points and 13 rebounds, and Thomas scored 23 points off the bench.
Murray had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists, cooling off after a hot start. Wilson Chandler enjoyed a bit of a throwback game to lead the Nuggets with 26 points.