LOS ANGELES – In Brian Shaw’s first regular season visit to Staples Center on Sunday as a head coach of the Denver Nuggets, his team handed the Los Angeles Lakers their seventh loss in the last eight games as they won, 137-115.
After trailing for much of the first half, the Nuggets used a 19-6 run to help build a double digit lead over the Lakers that was as much as a 12 points at 79-67 in the third quarter. Denver received nine points from Ty Lawson, who had 20 points with 12 assists on the night, and eight points from Wilson Chandler, who finished with 17 points.
In the fourth quarter the Nuggets used another quick start as they had an 11-2 run to begin the quarter that gave them a 19-point lead over Los Angeles. The Lakers for the remainder of the game didtn’t any closer than 15 points as Nate Robinson scored 12 of his team-high 21 points in the final quarter that give them as much as a 25-point lead.
It was an all around effort by the Nuggets as they outrebounded the Lakers 58-38 and also toppled them 30-9 in fast break points. For D’Antoni it was an effort that was puzzling as the Lakers gave up a season-high 137 points.
“We have to keep our heads up and play hard. Not harder, it’s just they get demoralized. They get tired,” D’Antoni said. “It’s like air went out of us, somehow, some way. We just didn’t have that backbone as a team, that grit you need sometimes in hard times. We’ve got to find that. We didn’t fight hard enough and they got every rebound and loose ball.”
The first half for Los Angeles was a different story as they held as much as a nine point lead behind 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting from Pau Gasol to go along with the team shooting 54 percent from the field in the first quarter. Kendall Marshall also contributed with five of his new career-high 17 assists to help the Lakers hold a 29-26 lead.
The second quarter featured much back and forth action between both teams with Nick Young and Jodie Meeks carrying the team offensively as they combined for 21 pts on 8-of-11 shooting from the field that helped the Lakers get a 61-60 halftime lead. The Nuggets combatted with 17 points between Kenneth Faried and Robinson.
As for Gasol, admid all trade rumors and what could be his final game as Laker, he would had another solid outing as he tied his season-high 25 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five assists.
“It could be my last game but it’s not that’s not something you think about that often,” Gasol said, after his tenth 20-plus point output in a game this season. “It could be due to an injury or trade but anything like that. I am happy with the way I am playing. In these last two games, I am giving everything I have and that’s all I can do.”
The Lakers would also receive 20-point outputs with from Meeks with 23 and Young’s 21, which marked his 20th consecutive game scoring in double figures and the eighth time in the last 11 games he has had at least 20 points.
After Sunday’s loss the Lakers will be heading on the two-game road trip, where D’Antoni hopes that the team can get back on track.
“It’s tough. There’s no sugarcoating it,” D’Antoni said. “We’re in a hole, and we put ourselves in this hole. We’ll get guys coming back. We just got to keep playing hard, keep (our) heads down going through it. It’s (like) the saying of Winston Churchill: ‘If you’re going through hell, just keep going.’ And that’s what we have to do.”
Marshall Shines Again
In his second start with the Lakers, Marshall once again had another impressive game as the team’s starting point guard as for the second consecutive game he set a new career-high with 17 assists to go along with nine points and six rebounds. But for the 22-year old, these statistics were of no importance as they were in a losing effort.
“When you lose by 25 points, it really doesn’t matter to be honest with you,” Marshall said, whose 32 assists in his first two starts as a Laker are the most by any player in franchise history. “But that’s my strength that’s what I try to do, to get guys involved every night.”
Marshall has played in a very important role with Los Angeles with all three of the team’s point guards in Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar out due to injuries. With Marshall as the starting point guard, he has given the Lakers a steady ball handler who does not commit many turnovers and excels in D’Antoni’s system.
With two road games in Texas coming up this week, Marshall will once again have to help the Lakers get off to quick starts in each game in order to win two difficult matchups against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday and Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
Photo Credit: USATSI