Lakers Downward Spiral Continues, Lose to Nuggets At Staples

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles ClippersAfter a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, the Lakers were back in action Sunday against the Denver Nuggets. Things had a little more weight added after recent quotes at practice indicated a possible rift between Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and some of the other members of the team. But they still took the floor Sunday night at Staples looking to defeat the Nuggets for the second time this season.

In the first two meetings of the season, the Lakers and Nuggets split the games. L.A., who barely was able to sneak past Denver in the first round of last year’s postseason, was trying to do the same in the regular season on Sunday.

First Quarter

The Lakers came out strong on the offensive end in the first, especially Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol. Both of those players were highly criticized after their abysmal performances against the Clippers, and were much more assertive early on against Denver. But while the Lakers looked very effective on the offensive end, it was their defense that was once again causing them problems.

L.A. also had some trouble with turnovers in the first quarter as well. In the first five minutes of the game the Lakers turned it over five times, and this allowed Denver to get out in transition and get easy baskets. After a disappointing first quarter, Denver was leading the Lakers 34-26.

Second Quarter

After having issues defensively in the first quarter things got worse for the Lakers in the second. Denver was routinely able to get to the basket and connect on easy shots, especially in transition. We did see a much better performance from Pau Gasol, however, as he was one of the main offensive weapons for Los Angeles in the first half.

Denver pushed their lead to nine midway through the quarter before the Lakers managed to make a run. They came all the way back and tied the game 60-60 at the half. At the break the Lakers had three players with five or more assists (Bryant, Nash, Chris Duhon), and Gasol was leading all Laker scorers with 11 points.

Of course, we did get to see a Dwight Howard three-point attempt at the end of the half. That was interesting.

Third Quarter

Things didn’t start out too strong for the Lakers in the third as their first possession resulted in a turnover. After that they managed to get things going and build a slight lead thanks to Steve Nash, who took over the reigns offensively and created good shot opportunities for Howard, Gasol and World Peace. The problem was that the Lakers offense was good enough to have them leading by 10-15 points, but their defense was so bad they were barely ever to build more than a two or three point lead.

We did see several things that we don’t see on a regular basis in the third, though. Both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol were given technical fouls in the period, which came as a surprise since they’re two of the more subdued temperaments on the Lakers roster.

The technicals didn’t help much, as the Nuggets were leading 89-83 heading into the fourth quarter.

Fourth Quarter

Heading into the final period the Lakers needed to turn up the pressure defensively if they were going to get the win. In the game on Friday against the Clippers they came out and played well in the fourth and had a shot to win at the end. They wouldn’t need quite the comeback in the fourth on Sunday, but they still would have to put together a string of strong defensive possessions if they were going to end this losing streak.

Denver looked to get more easy shots until a big possession from Ron Artest, in which he hounded the Nuggets all the way into the backcourt and forced a 24-second violation. This got the crowd on their feet and seemed to give the team a little bit of momentum. But again, all the loose balls went to Denver as the Lakers stood around and watched. And, ultimately, that’s what became the most frustrating part. It was a matter of effort. It was clear that the Nuggets wanted the ball, and wanted to win. You didn’t have that feeling with the Lakers, and the score reflected that.

The problems that the Lakers are facing right now are the same ones they’ve been facing all season. There’s no sense of urgency on defense, and teams are taking advantage of it. On offense there’s no rotation, no off-ball movement and no reason to feel optimistic about this team. Even in games like this and on Friday, when it’s close in the final minutes, it’s all about the lack of cohesion of this squad as a unit that is so glaringly evident.

It was the same thing we’ve seen from this Lakers squad so many times before. They came back in the fourth but it was just too little too late. The loss was another unexpected disappointment, and the Lakers seem to spiraling further and further into oblivion. There will be more questions raised after another inexcusable loss, 112-105.

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