The Lakers won because they were the better defensive team tonight.
Don’t laugh. The Lakers allowed only 103 points while the Nuggets allowed 122. The Lakers held the Nuggets to a lower field goal percentage (46.5%) than they shot themselves (54.0%). The Lakers out-rebounded the Nuggets 46 – 38, and had more steals (11 – 8) and more blocks (6 – 1) as well. They were clearly the better defensive team.
That, in a nutshell, is how Mike D’Antoni answers his critics when they say his teams are not good defensively. You only have to be better than your opponent that night. And of course, he’s right.
A more conventional – and fun – way to look at tonight’s game, however, is to acknowledge that it was an amazing offensive onslaught from the Lakers.
How amazing? Dwight Howard hit a three-pointer (!) on the Lakers’ final possession to bring the starters even with the bench. The Lakers’ starters and the Lakers’ bench each scored 61 points tonight, but since only four bench players received playing time, I’m giving the edge to the bench.
The Lakers were led by both Dwight Howard and Antawn Jamison. Howard scored 28 points (on 12 – 16 shooting) and grabbed 20 rebounds, while Jamison scored 33 points (13 – 19 shooting) and grabbed 12 boards.
The other offensive star of the night was Jodie Meeks, who scored 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting, going 7 – 8 on three-pointers. As D’Antoni has said, all Meeks needs to do is catch and shoot the ball.
The Lakers tied a franchise high tonight with 17 made three-pointers, but that doesn’t impress me. They will break that record a few more times before the season is over. There’s no way these guys won’t make 22 in a game this year.
What did impress me was that the Lakers, playing without Steve Nash, had 32 assists on the night, and that they were led by three different players with eight assists each: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Chris Duhon. I am going to give the tie-breaker to Duhon, though, because he only had one turnover.
And more props for Duhon: he led the team in plus-minus tonight, at +27.
On the downside, Nash missed his 14th consecutive game. When asked earlier in the day whether he would be back by Christmas, Nash replied, “I certainly hope so.” Ouch. There appears to be no immediate reason for optimism.
Also, in the Atlanta Hawks game tonight, Anthony Morrow shot 1 for 2 on three pointers, and in the process moved past Steve Nash and into eighth place on the all-time 3-PT% list, bumping the injured Nash back into ninth place.
Lakers Player of the Game
I have struggled with this and cannot decide whether it should be Dwight Howard or Antawn Jamison (their key stats are above), and so they are going to have to share the award tonight. They both had absolutely fabulous performances tonight.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Another white board message from Dan D’Antoni: ‘Dwight win the damn game. I don’t care how!!’” – Dave McMenamin (@mcten), pre-game tweet
“Steve Nash is so fresh. Sport coat, pocket square, jeans and Vans.” – Beto Duran (@DuranSports), late-game tweet
Sunday, December 2 vs. the Orlando Magic, 6:30 p.m. PST