After losing two straight games since returning home, the Los Angeles Lakers look to get back to their winning ways. Standing in their way however, is a Denver Nuggets team that has been much improved this season.
The addition of Paul Millsap to go along with the development of center Nikola Jokic and guards Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay have made the Nuggets one of the most potent offenses in the league. Denver is currently eighth in the NBA in points per game, and sixth in offensive rating.
The Lakers will need to get back to their defensive mindset from earlier this season as their offense continues to struggle overall. One player who hasn’t been is rookie Kyle Kuzma, who has posted career high scoring nights in back-to-back games.
Denver comes into Staples Center at 9-6, having won four of their last five games. The Lakers are on the other end of the spectrum, having lost five of six to fall to 6-10 overall this season.
As has been the case recently, it was Kuzma getting things going for the Lakers with the first five points. Brook Lopez also added a three, but Denver was right there every step of the way with their excellent ball movement. Jokic and Millsap each made excellent passes as Denver went up 11-8 early.
The Lakers actually got off to a good start from deep as Lopez would add a second and Ingram would quickly follow with one as well. Julius Randle checked in and immediately got five quick points while forcing Jokic out with his second foul as well. Even still the Nuggets remained tight with the Lakers, trailing only 23-20 following a Clarkson Jordan Clarkson tip-in.
The Lakers continued their hot shooting as the quarter went on led by Lopez, Randle, and Clarkson. Another three-point play from Randle followed by a layup from Clarkson gave the Lakers a 10-point lead, but Denver would get it back within six, 32-26 after one quarter.
The Lakers got off to an excellent start in the second quarter thanks to their defense, and excellent ball movement. Clarkson, Randle, and Kuzma all got easy buckets on assists and Corey Brewer was everywhere on defense, creating turnovers. After a steal and layup, L.A. found themselves ahead 44-30, forcing Mike Malone to burn a timeout.
The Lakers would continue to extend their run, going on a 20-2 exploit to go up 18 before Denver finally got another bucket. The frustration then began to boil over after a no-call on Jokic. Mike Malone ran on the floor to confront the referee and Jokic argued vehemently as well leading to both being ejected.
Jamal Murray would pick up a technical of his own not long after, and another Randle bucket put the Lakers up 22 and gave Randle 17 points in only 14 minutes. Kuzma would another three as the Lakers kept up their improved shooting.
Lonzo would get going as well, hitting a three and following it up with a block on the other end and an assist to Josh Hart as the Lakers kept up their lead. One last layup by Ball gave him nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists as the Lakers went into the half ahead 70-48.
It was announced that the Nuggets would be without Paul Millsap due to a sprained wrist so the Denver frontcourt was at a major disadvantage. Despite that, they got off to a quick start with six straight points, forcing Luke Walton to use a quick timeout.
Lopez would get the Lakers on the board with four points of his own and then found Kuzma for a layup to keep L.A. ahead comfortably. The Nuggets would cut into the lead by five or six points, but every time they did the Lakers would respond.
It was more of the same as KCP got five straight points and Randle returned to the game and got another basket. The Nuggets continued to fight as Harris and Mudiay picked up buckets, but L.A. remained ahead by 17.
Brewer finally picked up his first basket, but Denver did a good job of chipping at the lead as the Lakers defense began to relax a little. Clarkson would get a layup to fall at the end of the third to keep the Lakers ahead 99-84 heading to the fourth.
The bench duo of Randle and Clarkson got the Lakers a couple of quick buckets to start the quarter as the Lakers looked to put this game out of reach early in the fourth.
Lonzo would have an amazing one-hand finish on an alley-oop from Randle and then return the favor by setting Randle up for a three. That assist would give Ball his second career triple-double as the Lakers pulled back ahead by 21.
Even facing a huge deficit, the Nuggets continued to attack and would not go down quietly as they got back within 16 midway through the quarter. They would never seriously threaten, however as the Lakers would go on to win comfortably 127-109.
Ball finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists, Randle had 24 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, and Lopez added 21 points. L.A. also had 36 assists and shot 53 percent from the field on the night.
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