Sports Out West

Strong start helps lift Lakers in 90-88 win over the Nuggets

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

ONTARIO, Calif — The Los Angeles Lakers in third preseason game on Tuesday took advantage of a strong first half and held on late in closely contested 90-88 win against the Denver Nuggets.

Los Angeles held Denver to 31 points on 22.7% shooting from the field in the first half, and the Lakers shot 48.8% with their largest lead at 21 points.

The Lakers went into the fourth quarter with double-digit lead and Nuggets made their move by going on a 27-12 run that helped them gain a 87-86 lead after a fastbreak dunk by JJ Hickson with less than a minute left in the game.

They were unable to pull off the comeback as Los Angeles got to the line three times in the final minute and were also unsuccessful in both of their last second shot attempts by Jordan Hamilton and Anthony Randolph.

The Lakers received double-digit scoring from four players led by Steve Blake’s 16 points and the Nuggets had three players in double figures with Javalee McGee’s 14 points leading the way.

Although the Lakers were able to withstand the Nuggets late run, the real story of Tuesday’s game was the chemistry between both Pau Gasol, who had 14 points and eight rebound in 24 mintues, and Chris Kaman, who had 12 points and seven rebounds also in 24 minutes, when they were on the floor together.

Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni was pleased with what he saw from both big men and after game sounded like he was considering featuring them both together in the starting lineup because of the chemistry the two have with each other.

“We will see I don’t want to get there yet,” D’Antoni said. “But they will play together. The thing about it what happens is that I want Pau in the whole and he can do that with Chris because (he) is just as comfortable on the elbow and the perimeter like Pau. Both of them can shoot the ball extremely well. Both of them pass the ball so they can take turns down there. The chemistry looked good between the two. “

Blake credited the performance of Kaman and Gasol on Tuesday due to their years of experience in the league.

“(They)are two guys that are veteran players understand the game,” Blake said. “They know where to be. They’re big guys, maybe not the most athletic, but they are a bully in their minds.”

 Gasol felt that Kaman’s versatility allows for them to play so well together.

“I think he is not just an interior player,” Gasol said. “He can step out off the lane and still be effective (by) knock(ing) down a couple of shot.  He has a great shot also from 17 or 18 feet from the rim.  He can say that he is not just a big guy that is going to be in the middle of the lane or operating in the post and elbow. His versatile and knowledge of the game really helps our combination work well.”

Kobe Bryant returned to the team Tuesday after leaving to Germany last week for a knee procedure. He sat on the bench in his warm-ups and during an in-game interview said he feels good after receiving the treatment and that he is still ahead of schedule but still not timetable on his return.

He also added that he is still unaware of how much the procedure has helped him because he has yet to start running at full speed.

On a side note, both Jordan Farmar (calf) and Wesley Johnson (foot) did not play in Tuesday’s game and are still listed as day-to-day.

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.