Game Report: Nuggets defeat Lakers 112–105
Dwight Howard had a fabulous game that included a career high-tying 26 rebounds, but he was at the center of a couple of very late plays that thwarted the Lakers’ comeback effort.
The first play was Dwight’s fault. With 2:00 to play and down by four, Howard grabbed a mammoth defensive rebound, but he had his outlet pass blocked by JaVale McGee. Denver recovered the ball and Andre Miller scored to put the Lakers down by six.
The second play was not Dwight’s fault, but it was just as unfortunate. With 0:17 remaining, he made a monster block on Andre Miller, but the ball went straight to Danilo Gallinari in the corner, who caught the block and in one motion nailed a three-pointer. The catch-and-shoot was so smooth you would have thought a teammate had passed him the ball.
Those two plays overshadowed what had been an amazing late charge by Kobe Bryant, who scored 18 of the Lakers’ 22 fourth quarter points. Kobe shot the ball poorly to start the game, but finished by nailing 7 of his last 9 attempts.
The Lakers moved the ball well tonight, recording assists on 30 of their 38 buckets (79%), but 18 turnovers did not help their cause. And neither did being outscored 60 – 38 in the paint, despite holding Kenneth Faried to six points on the night.
Jordan Hill and Steve Nash continued to contribute in very solid if unspectacular ways. Hill had 13 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, while Nash had 10 points and 13 assists.
Nash ended the night needing just five assists to reach 10,000 for his career, and needing to hit his next four free throws to overtake Mark Price – at least temporarily – as the NBA career leader in free throw percentage.
There was a fun statistical oddity tonight. Late in the game, Pau Gasol was elbowed in the nose. The blood could not be stopped, and Pau could not return to shoot his free throws. In that situation, the opposing coach gets to pick someone from the Lakers’ bench to shoot the free throws.
George Karl chose Earl Clark, who had not yet played in the game. Clark proceeded to nail both free throws, and Denver immediately called a time-out. During the time-out, the Lakers substituted another player for Clark, and Clark did not return.
As a result, Earl Clark scored two points in 0:00 minutes of playing time. Surely that doesn’t happen very often.
Folks, make no mistake about it – the Lakers are in a tough spot. However, you have to believe this team still has great upside. The biggest need for improvement has to be team defense, especially in the half-court.
Surely that is something that can be improved through greater focus, both by the coaching staff and the players themselves.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Although Kobe Bryant had a great fourth quarter, there is no question that tonight’s player of the game was Dwight Howard, despite a couple of unfortunate plays in the final two minutes. Howard scored 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting, blocked four shots, and grabbed a career high-tying 26 rebounds. And he looked strong in doing so – it was a much different Dwight Howard than we saw playing the Nuggets back on December 26.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Dwight Howard gets a key block. Ball goes straight to Gallinari, who drains a 3. Yep, that’s the season in a nutshell.” – @RamonaShelburne, late-game tweet
“Kobe: ‘Defense and rebounding is what wins you championships and it’s not too late to turn that around. We just need to buckle down.’” – @JanisCarr, post-game tweet
Tuesday, January 8 vs. the Houston Rockets, 5:00 p.m. PST