Sports Out West

Lakers fall to Nuggets 97-88 in Pau Gasol and Steve Nash’s preseason debut

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On a night where Pau Gasol and Steve Nash returned to the court for their first NBA game in five months, the Los Angeles Lakers fell, 97-88, to the Denver Nuggets in Brian Shaw‘s debut as the team’s head coach.  

After both teams traded the lead 10 times in the first half, the Nuggets pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers 26-14 and built their lead to much as 17 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers for the game shot the ball poorly at 32 percent from the field and allowed the Nuggets to shoot 42 percent and were outscored 32-8 in fast break points.

The Nuggets had four players in double-digit scoring with Ty Lawson at 15 points, JaVale McGee at 12. From their bench, Jordan Hamilton chipped in with 15 points and JJ Hickson had 10.

Xavier Henry led Los Angeles in scoring for the second straight night with 15 points, Gasol had 13, and off the bench, Marcus Landry added 13 points, included three 3-pointers.

Gasol scored all of his 13 points in the first half on 4-of-13 shooting including 5-of-6 from the free throw line with four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.

“It felt good,” Gasol said. “(I’m) a little winded, but overall pretty satisfied. For the first game it wasn’t bad, but we can still improve a lot. But it’s the first preseason game, so I played and look forward to the next one.”

As for his health, Gasol was content with how his body felt Sunday night.

“Pretty much. so far, the soreness in my knees is getting a lot more manageable, Gasol said. “I’m very pleased about how they feel right now.”

Nash was satisfied with his play in 22 minutes of action tonight where he was 0 for 2 with six assists and five rebounds.

“Not bad (it was) my first basketball game in five months,” Nash said. “I will take it. I just need a few more weeks to get my rhythm, timing and get a real feel of the group.”

The 39-year-old was impressed with the progress Gasol has made in his recovery from surgery and feels that his teammate will be ready when the season begins a couple of weeks.

“For him to come back and be effective as he is, is a great sign,” Nash said. “I think compared to last summer, he just looked refreshed (tonight). He looked happy, and has that kind of energy to come through and for him to be very conditioned when the season starts.”

Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t like the team’s poor shooting effort on Sunday but was encouraged by what the what the team did defensively.

“It’s preseason — you got to go with the flow,” D’Antoni said.” In the first half was pretty good in the sense that we turned them over 16 times and we only had eight turnovers, which is a lot but we turned them 16. We were only down two and we were shooting 28 percent. So I thought we did some good things, we just didn’t make some shots.”

Los Angeles’ defense for the second consecutive game forced their opponent to commit double-digit turnovers with the Nuggets at 28 on Sunday.

Nash felt the Lakers’ defensive performance was adequate and that the team played within their game plan as it was just a matter of shots not falling.

“I thought our defense wasn’t bad,” Nash said. ” Obviously, we stuck with the game plan from last night. I thought we shot the ball alright and I actually thought we created a lot of good looks. We just didn’t knock them down. Not only threes, but opportunities in the paint we just didn’t finish.”

Wesley Johnson left the game in the first half with a sprained left foot with pain described as a “burning sensation.” He is expected to receive an MRI on Monday. Henry hurt his wrist early in the fourth quarter but stated the injury isn’t serious enough to force him miss any playing time.

Jordan Farmar and Chris Kaman both did not play in Sunday’s game and are each expected to play in Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets at the Citizen’s Bank arena in Ontario, Calif. 

Rookie Ryan Kelly is still out as he continues to rehab from foot surgery.

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images 

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.