The Los Angeles Lakers began a stretch of four games in six days with a tough road matchup against the Denver Nuggets that became more of an uphill battle when Lonzo Ball suffered a sprained left ankle.
Ball sustained the injury late in the second quarter when he slipped on the foot of Malik Beasley, who was on the ground after attempting to get to a rebound. As Ball was slow to his feet, the Nuggets went down and completed a four-point play.
That extended their lead to seven points and Denver didn’t look back from there. The Lakers’ already-present struggles on offense were magnified without Ball and Rajon Rondo who remains sidelined as he recovers from hand surgery.
Even had they managed to shoot better than 5-for-35 from behind the three-point line, the difference in rebounding may have been too much to overcome. Following the 117-85 loss, Lakers head coach Luke Walton said he felt the team lost energy, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I thought we did a nice job in the first half. Our priority was keeping them off the foul line and not turning the ball over. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make any shots. And then I think we gave in a little bit to some fatigue. … I thought we got tired. We came out and played a great pace early in the game, in the first quarter. I don’t know if that carried over or if we just didn’t adjust to the altitude. It looked like a lot of those possessions where they were getting extra offensive rebounds, we had guys that were just standing around sucking for air. That’s why part of our shootaround this morning was getting up and down and trying to get our lungs used to being up here. Every team has to deal with it that plays here, so it can’t be an excuse for us. We’ve got to be better.”
The Nuggets finished with a 60-39 rebounding edge, which in some part can be attributed to shooting 48.5 percent compared to just 39.1 percent for the Lakers. However, Denver also muscled their way to 16 offensive rebounds, which doubled the Lakers’ total.