The Kobe Bryant scoring streak continues, now at 10 consecutive games with at least 30 points. The Los Angeles Lakers winning streak? Over in the hands of a younger, faster and more balanced Denver Nuggets. Things could get worse, because Dwight Howard might miss some games.
In an evening of cheap shots around the NBA, the Lakers couldn’t be left out, as Howard decided to stop the driving Kenneth Faried by using two hands on Faried’s face. It was 78-72 in the third quarter when Howard left. The pace and the scoring just got more hectic without the Center, who finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, with the Nuggets eventually leaving the Lakers in the dust en route to a 126-114 win, improving to 9-1 at home while the Lakers fall below .500 once again.
Tonight it seemed like we were just a step slow. We played old. They played with a lot of energy, a lot of youth, got up and down. It just seemed we were in a lower gear.
The Denver Nuggets are never going to beat teams by playing lockdown defense and getting tons of stops. This is a team that runs and runs. The addition of Andre Iguodala doesn’t change their orientation, just gives someone who can actually play in a more committing and hopefully contagious way on defense. The Nuggets are allowing 101.2 points per game, so it’s clearly not making that much of a difference.
But on offense, it certainly helps to be this young and athletic. Oh, and fast. Certainly the Lakers weren’t going to be the team that keeps up with Ty Lawson and Iggy pushing the Nuggets forward. Lawson finished with 14 assists; Iguodala with 7, as the Nuggets had 31 on the day. They won the turnovers battle (10-14), scored a lot more in the paint (58-38) and simply kept finding themselves wide open, finishing with a very impressive 12-22 from beyond the arc, six of them by Corey Brewer and his 24 points off the bench.
For the Lakers, it was back to square one. The offense does look better with Steve Nash, who finished with 8 assists and 15 points, getting a lot of open looks for himself and for his teammates. The big five all finished in double figures, including Pau Gasol who scored 19 points. Kobe Bryant, obviously, enjoyed the vast spaces and no defense to handle, but even he misfired here and there. He did finish with 40 points (13-24) from the field, but he looked sluggish and tired after 44 minutes on the floor. The dependency on Bryant each and every game is taking its toll on a team that was supposed to be a lot more balanced.
He’s Kobe Bryant, so he made some tough shots, but other guys didn’t get involved, so we were able to get a win.
The Nuggets are fun to watch, but until this team creates some sort of defensive identity, which won’t happen unless JaVale McGee (7 points, 3 rebounds) begins playing more than 19 minutes a night and start becoming a much more focused individual, some regular season entertainment and the first round in the postseason is as far as they can go. Most of the good teams in the NBA and especially out West can defend much better than the Lakers, can keep up with the Nuggets when it comes to pace & scoring and don’t rely on just one player to carry them through.