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FSM Essential Recap: Lakers vs Nuggets – Game 41

Franchise Sports Media

Los Angeles Lakers (19-22) | Denver Nuggets (27-13)

 

The Lake Show’s five-game win streak came to an end with their loss to the Denver Nuggets 122-109

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP

The NBA announced that LeBron James was the Western Conference Player Of The Week for week 12, and Thomas Bryant was also nominated. James was named Player of the Week (his first since December of 2021) after leading LA to a 4-0 record, averaging 35.0 points on 54.8% shooting, along with 8.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

Unfortunately, King James wasn’t able to get an opportunity to build off the recognition as he was out vs. Denver due to left ankle soreness. Troy Brown Jr. was also still out, missing his third straight game due to a quad strain. Fortunately, Russell Westbrook (left foot soreness) was available.

The Lakers’ starters at Denver were Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverley, Max Christie, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Thomas Bryant. The 22nd starting lineup Darvin Ham has used so far this season.

Without the king, the Lake Show struggled on their first possession and ended up with a shot clock violation. What a difference James makes. One could argue that in a situation like this one, starting Westbrook wouldn’t have been a bad idea.

There was still one guy the Lakers could rely on to create, and that was Schroder, who got the Lake Show on the board with a pull-up jumper. Christie seemed ready for this one, as he spotted up from beyond the arc and drained a three to take a one-point lead early.

Despite the missing star power, LA was fighting Denver to a standstill early, as the score was all knotted up at 9-9 with 6:50 left in the first quarter. Westbrook checked in and immediately went to Toscano-Anderson, who went straight at Aaron Gordon for two.

However, the Lake Show started to waver, turning over the ball three times over four possessions, with two of the turnovers courtesy of Brodie. Ham was forced to call a timeout to try to quell Denver’s 13-4 run and to get his guys refocused.

Whatever was said during the timeout, it worked, as LA gathered themselves and scored seven straight points to bring the game back within four points. But the Lakers couldn’t hold it together defensively, as Nikola Jokic found Jamal Murray open for a three, which seemed a dime a dozen since LA was caught chasing time and time again. They stuck with it, though, and were well within striking distance as the score was 29-23 in Denver’s favor at the end of the first quarter.

The first four minutes of the second quarter were gritty and methodical, with the Lakers slowly chipping away at Denver’s lead, but of course, LA faltered once more, giving up a 6-0 run to the Nuggets and falling behind by nine points.

Cole Swider got some run in and rewarded Ham for his trust with a corner three, cutting Denver’s run short. Murray wouldn’t be denied, though, scoring five points by himself in succession and re-securing a 45-36 lead for Denver with 5:24 left in the first half.

The Lake Show started to lose control of things when they allowed a 10-1 run, capped off by Michael Porter Jr. with a two-handed finish in transition. At this point of the game, the lack of a real difference-maker started to show, and combined with no one stepping up, LA found itself in a sinking hole. They were simply being outclassed. Bryant would never agree to that, though, as he blew by Jokic for an angry one-handed finish at the rim.

 

At halftime, the score read Nuggets 62, Lakers 48. Without James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV, and Brown Jr., the Lake Show struggled in Denver. Bryant was doing all he could to keep them afloat, totaling 10 points and six rebounds. Denver was shooting an impressive 51.1% due to LA’s soft defense.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP

Entering the second half, Beverley did not return to the game due to a right hip injury. In his place was Kendrick Nunn; he got LA’s scoring started with a three from the corner. At this point, the offense wasn’t a big problem; it was the defense, as Murray got Schroder up in the air, missed the shot, but quickly put back in his missed attempt.

Denver started to struggle a bit, with LA cutting their lead to nine points. The main problem was the limited touches for Jokic in the third quarter. Five minutes had passed, and every other Nugget seemed to be doing their own thing. For a good chunk of that time, Murray was the main focus. He’s still a star in this league, but Jokic is your superstar. Mike Malone must’ve sensed this and called a timeout to address the issue.

Jokic didn’t even have his first field goal attempt until the 4:50 mark of the third, which was off an offensive rebound he snagged and put back in with one hand. However, the Nuggets were still ahead at 75-66.

Swider drained another three off a dime from Westbrook. He could be the second coming of Matt Ryan. But Nunn was too trigger-happy, clanking back-to-back shots, all the while Bruce Brown was draining threes. Before you knew it, the Nuggets scored ten straight points and obtained a 15-point lead. Sterling Brown made a little spark plug play, picking off a pass and getting it to Christie on the break for a transition finish.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lake Show found themselves down 94-79. Which quickly changed as Bones Hyland pulled up from the parking lot to swish home a three. Despite falling behind by 20 points at one point, the Lakers were still battling, as Bryant cashed in on an and-1 opportunity to cut the lead to 13 points at 106-93 with 6:24 remaining in the game.

Murray was feeling himself as he pulled up in transition, calm and collected, and drained it, sending a dagger through the heart of the Lake Show. Every time they showed grit and fight, Denver put them back down quickly. Schroder pulled out a veteran move, but it’s also pretty illegal, as he dribbled in front of Jokic, selling the act, and he drew the foul on Jokic.

With less than two minutes remaining, Ham opted to pull the starters, giving some run to the reserves. Sometimes watching those guys could be fruitful in figuring out who could be critical pieces in the future, but all that was revealed was that Brown is not the answer as he received a nice feed from Scotty Pippen Jr. but failed to finish. The final score read Nuggets 122, Lakers 109.

 

Key Takeaways

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP

The shorthanded five-game win streak snapped at Denver. The Lake Show dropped to 19-22. They’re on pace to go 38-44. Westbrook finished with 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists but also had seven turnovers and finished 1-4 from three. 

The rookie Christie had a season-high 14 points on 6 of 8 FGs. Bryant had 17 points and ten rebounds. Schroder had 14 points on a horrible 3-13 FGs and 0-5 from three. Nunn had 15 points on 6-15 FGs. Toscano-Anderson was a team-best 0 in +/-, while Schroder was a team-worst -16.

Murray popped off with 34 points and seven rebounds. Jokic was super efficient with 14 points on 5-5 FGs, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did damage against his former team with 16 points. Brown, off the bench, had 15 points and seven rebounds.

Ham told reporters after the game that they don’t know the severity of Beverley’s hip injury yet. He suffered it while slipping under the basket near the Nuggets’ bench.

 

The Lakers will now take on the Dallas Mavericks. They’ll face off on Thursday, January 12th, at 7:00 p.m. PT at the Crypto.com Arena. The game will be available on TNT and Spectrum SportsNet.

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– Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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