No big whoop, Lakers fans, no big whoop.
While a win would have been huge, a win tonight was neither expected nor required. Playing in Denver – a city with an official elevation of precisely one mile – is difficult enough (the Nuggets are now 24-3 at home), but playing in Denver on the second game of a back-to-back is just unfair.
How difficult is it to perform well in Denver? For the first 2012 presidential debate, Mitt Romney arrived in Denver several days early to acclimatize himself to the altitude, while President Obama dropped into Denver at 2:00 p.m. the day of the debate.
On that night, Romney ran roughshod over the President, who appeared dazed and confused, much like the Nuggets ran roughshod over the weary Lakers tonight.
Not to worry, though, Lakers fans. The President recovered from his setback to hoist the trophy at season’s end, and so too can the Lakers.
Denver played at a frantic speed and at great heights tonight, and the tired and ground-bound Lakers were simply no match.
Need proof? The Lakers allowed a whopping 78 points in the paint tonight, 33 of which were fast-break points. Ouch.
It appears to me that Earl Clark may have hit a wall. He was ineffective again tonight, scoring eight points and grabbing just one rebound in 22 minutes, while posting a team-worst plus-minus of -17.
Despite Dwight Howard scoring 15 points on efficient shooting, pulling down 14 rebounds, swatting away four shots, committing just one turnover, and leading the team in plus-minus, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he shot a shocking 3 of 14 from the free throw line, and that his inability to pick up Nash’s bounce passes in the pick-and-roll contributed significantly to Nash’s six turnovers on the night.
And it’s also hard to shake the image of Dwight turning away from a ball that he assumed was going out of bounds, only to have the hustling Nuggets keep the ball alive, while an oblivious Dwight was looking the other way. (This play was accurately but unfairly – from a cosmic perspective – charged as a Nash turnover).
But even though it’s hard to forget about the free throws, and to forget about the lack of hustle, I encourage you to try to forget about it anyway. Give Dwight a break. Let this one go.
Take some solace from the fact that the Celtics went into Utah tonight and handed the Jazz a tough loss. Unlike the Lakers loss tonight, the Jazz loss was unexpected.
Kobe Bryant once again led the way for the Lakers, scoring 29 points (12-23 FG), dishing out nine dimes, and grabbing six boards. Steve Nash had 16 points (6-8 FG), Dwight Howard had 15 (6-8 FG), Metta World Peace had 15 (6-11 FG), and Antawn Jamison had 14 (5-12 FG) for the Lakers.
A couple of Lakers reached milestones tonight:
- With four blocked shots, Howard passed Rasheed Wallace to move into 33rd place on the career list, with 1,464.
- With three made 3-pointers, Jamison passed David Wesley to move into 50th place on the career list, with 1,124.
The Lakers now have a bit of rest ahead of them. They don’t play again until Thursday, when they host the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center, and then they don’t play after that until Sunday, when the Atlanta Hawks are in Los Angeles.
The Lakers, and their fans, should put tonight’s loss behind them. The Lakers can now look forward to some much needed rest, and their fans can realistically expect the team to be back at 0.500, with a record of 30-30, by this time next week.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Kobe Bryant was once again the Lakers player of the game. He led the team in scoring with 29 (12-23 FG, 0-1 3-PT, 5-6 FT) and in assists with nine, while also grabbing six rebounds.
On the downside, Kobe picked up his 14th technical foul of the year tonight. He is allowed only one more this season. If he gets two more, then he is automatically suspended for one game.
(It should be noted that, post-game, Kobe said he had spoken with referee Joey Crawford, and thought the technical would be rescinded.)
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“Lakers broke rule #1 of playing the Nuggets: control tempo by playing a controlled offense. TOs & bad sets hurt them early. Never recovered.” – @ForumBlueGold, post-game tweet
“Lakers have played much better last few weeks – still imperfect – but better. Back to back in Denver? Just not realistic for almost any team.” – @EricPincus, post-game tweet
Thursday, February 28 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m. PST