L.A.

5 things we learned from Lakers’ 116-105 loss to Nuggets

Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers fell to their sixth straight loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, 116-105. 

The Lakers got off to a quick 13-4 lead behind three straight 3-pointers from Jordan Clarkson, who had 11 points in the period. Los Angeles headed into the second quarter with a 31-24 advantage. 

Denver responded in the second quarter using a 26-8 run to take command of the game scoring 30-points in the period on 56 percent shooting to carry a 12-point lead into the half at 58-46. 

Los Angeles surged back into the game closing the gap using a 21-9 run to cut the deficit to just 83-77 behind Kobe Bryant‘s 11 points in the period going into the fourth quarter. 

The Nuggets ended any chance of a Lakers’ comeback with a 17-6 run midway through the final period. They finished with six players in double figures along with 62 points in the paint in the win. 

Los Angeles has lost six out of their last seven games. Here are five things we learned from Friday night:

Bryant has strong outing

With a sufficient amount of rest, Bryant gave it go on Friday night in his last tilt against the Nuggets where he averaged 24.8 points in his career against them. 

The 37-year-old continued to have personal success against Denver putting together a strong offensive performance recording 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including four 3-pointers in 29 minutes played.  

Bryant got off to a slow start in the first quarter hitting just 3-of-8 shots scoring eight points with two of makes being reverse layups. He got going in the third quarter scoring 11 points in the period on 4-of-7 shooting including knocking down three 3-pointers. He would add six points in the fourth quarter with the game already out of hand.

“Just trying to save up and have as much energy as possible and try to play all of these games,” Bryant said. “I’m just giving it absolutely all I can.”

With 11 games left, it will be interesting to see how many games that Bryant is able to give it a go given that his right shoulder is still a persistent issue. 

Russell injured 

The Lakers’ rookie guard suffered a minor setback after his night was cut short with a moderately sprained right ankle in the second quarter.

Russell suffered the injury with just over three minutes left in the period after he rolled his right ankle with all of his momentum going forward on Nuggets guard D.J. Augustin foot after he dribbled toward the key before dishing it off to his teammate.

The 20-year-old immediately collapsed to the floor in obvious pain and had to be helped to the locker room by his teammates as he was unable to put any weight on his ankle. X-rays on the injury were negative. Russell finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting with two points and one rebound in 12 minutes played. 

“We are going to wait and see how it feels,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said. “He turned that thing over really good. I am not going to count him out for Sunday and Monday but we want to see how he recovers in the next couple of days.”

Russell also echoed the same sentiment following the game that he will go through the wait-and-see situation with his ankle. 

“I’ll see how I feel in the morning,” Russell said. “I definitely want to get out there, we only have a few games left so I want to finish the season out on a positive note. I definitely want to get out there as soon as possible.”

In the 14 games since he returned to the starting lineup prior to Friday, Russell had been averaging 17.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. This included seven 20-plus point performances and one 30-point scoring game in that span and scored 20 or more points in four straight contests. 

Randle records first triple-double

Entering Friday’s game, Randle has been a consistent source of production in the last 28 games averaging 13.3 points and 11.4 rebounds while recording 18 out of his 31 team-leading double-doubles on the season. 

Randle kept up that trend going this time with his best all-around game of the season notching his first career triple-double with 13 points, 18 rebounds, and a career-high 10 assists in the loss.

He had an extremely productive all-around first quarter grabbing six rebounds and tied his career-high five assists along with scoring two points. He was dominant in the second half 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with 10 rebounds and five assists, including notching his final assist on a three-pointer by Clarkson in the final minute of the game. 

“I thought he looked pretty good,” Scott said. “He was getting up and down the floor, rebounding, doing all of the little things that he normally does. His first triple-double I thought was the only really big-time positive tonight.”

The 21-year-old became the second-youngest player in Lakers history to record a triple-double after Magic Johnson. Randle is  the youngest player in the NBA to have a triple-double since Giannis Antetokounmpo did so on March 13. 

“I was just looking for my guys,” Randle said. “We have a lot of guys who their whole career have been scorers. We were unselfish.  I know my career I’ve been a scorer, but I’ve also been able to do both. I’m just trying to switch it up and get the ball moving.”

It has been quite a productive first full campaign for the 21-year-old, and with just over two weeks left in the season should provide more valuable experience.

Nuggets second-quarter surge

Following a slow start in the first quarter, the Nuggets responded in the second quarter taking command of the game outscoring the Lakers 34-15 in the period while shooting 56 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from beyond the arc. 

Denver used a 26-8 run in the quarter that helped create a 19-point swing with all but two points coming from their bench. Augustin and Will Barton combined for 18 of the team’s points in the period. They also had 16 points in the paint in the period. 

The Lakers from that point on were in the catch-up mode falling behind by as much as 18 points in the third quarter. Although they made a surge late in the period with a 21-9 run that cut the deficit to six points, it proved to be too much to overcome. 

“The second quarter was a killer tonight,” Scott said. We just couldn’t sustain it in the second quarter. They were getting layup after layup. Their transition started getting going. We didn’t do a good job getting back in transition. It just seemed like after the first quarter we just took a deep breath and kind of exhaled.”

Nuggets balanced scoring

It was a balanced scoring attack from the Nuggets that saw them finish with six players in double-figures scoring. This includes all but one Darrell Arthur scoring at least eight points in the win. 

Their bench led the charge with three players having more than 16 points. Augustin had a near double-double with 20 points and eight assists. The Nuggets also dished out 31 assists and grabbing 13 offensive rebounds. 

Ultimately, it was their balanced play on offense getting everyone involved that proved to be the difference.

“Our bench was huge for us tonight,” Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said. “D.J. [Augustin], Nurk [Jusuf Nurkic], Joffrey [Lauvergne], Axel [Toupane], they were fantastic. They helped us build the lead, and they helped extend the lead.” 

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia IV is a sports journalist from Southern California. He's currently the Los Angeles Lakers beat writer for Sports Out West. He was previously the beat writer for LA Rams Report for Scout.com, which is a website dedicated to covering the Rams. Lastly, he was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.
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