L.A.

5 things learned from Lakers’ 120-109 loss to Nuggets

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers suffered their fourth straight game to start the season falling 120-109 to the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers got off to a fast start knocking down 54.5 percent of their shots in the first quarter and led by as many as 10 points with Jordan Clarkson leading the way with 14 points.

The Nuggets battled back in the second quarter to reclaim the lead 60-57 at the half behind 20 first-half points from Kenneth Faried. The first half featured 20 lead changes.

Nuggets took command in the second half pushing their lead to 10 points by the start of the fourth quarter. Los Angeles was able to cut the deficit to three points, but Denver had an answer for every bucket late. 

The Lakers fall to 0-4 to start the season for the third time in franchise history, and will head on the road for 16 out of their next 20 games. 

Here are five things learned from Tuesday’s loss:

Mr. Reliability

Since signing with Los Angeles in the offseason, it has been a seamless transition for Lou Williams into the team’s sixth man role.

This was quite apparent on Tuesday night as he scored a season-high 24 points on 4-of-11 shooting and hitting a career-best 16-of-19 from the free throw line. He did most of his damage in the second half tallying 19 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. 

Williams showed much comfort in finding his shot and put defenders on their heels as he drew numerous fouls from beyond the arc. He has been incredibly efficient at the charity stripe this season connecting on 90% of his attempts (27-of-30).

The 10-year veteran has been an extremely reliable source of offense off the bench for the Lakers scoring in double figures in three out of the four games, including two 20-plus point outputs.  

Aside from the team’s early-season struggles, Williams has remained a consistent offensive threat for Los Angeles. 

Mamba adjusting

It has been nothing short of a difficult shooting stretch for Bryant through the first three games shooting just 31 percent from the field, including 20 percent from beyond the arc.

After sitting out Monday’s practice, Bryant got off to a good start offensively scoring nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in the first half. However, he continued to look a step slower defensively as he struggled to cover Danilo Gallinari at times. 

Bryant’s shooting woes continued in the second half, as he made just 1-of-5 his attempts in the final two quarters. It was a quite overall performance from the 17-time All-Star, who’s still struggling to find his way offensively.

That said, head coach Byron Scott remained confident that Bryant will find his way.

“We just keep working,” Scott said. “That’s all we can do. We have to keep working, we have to keep trusting each other. All our players have to do better. All of us as coaches, myself, we have to do better. It’s as simple as that.”

Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that Bryant is having much difficulty getting himself acclimated to his physical ability at this point in his career. This will continue to remain something to monitor as the season rolls on. 

Defensive woes

Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets, Los Angeles ranked last in the league in points in the paint allowed (52.0) through their first three games.

This trend continued against Denver allowing 54 points in the paint. This included 26 points in the first half.  It’s something that Scott doesn’t believe is due to a lack of effort, but rather than the team’s lack of anticipation for the next play. 

“Most of it’s not effort. It really isn’t.” Scott said. “I think our guys are giving a great effort. Most of it’s just knowing where you’re supposed to be at the right time in the right place. Anticipation is big.”

The Lakers have struggled to keep opponents out of the paint and have allowed easy dribble penetration. In short, their defense has been nothing short of atrocious in the paint.  If they hope to turn their season around, there must be some vast improvement on this end of the floor.

Clarkson lights it up

The second-year guard continued his strong start to the season tying a career-high 3o points on 12-of-19 shooting in 37 minutes played. 

Clarkson got going offensively from the get-go notching 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter. He showed his versatility in his scoring ability making shots from 3-point range, floaters, and in the mid-range.

He continued to have a hot shooting stroke in the second quarter knocking a down a pair of 3-pointer to give him a team -high 20 points in the first half.

Although he cooled down a bit in the second half scoring just 10 points, his play in the first few games of the season has been a definite bring spot for the Lakers. He has helped carry the offensive load for rookie guard D’Angelo Russell, who is still struggle to find his footing through his few games of the season. 

If Clarkson can remain healthy, there will certainly be more performance like Tuesday night ahead of him.

Randle continues to impress

With the challenging task against Faried, Randle held more than his own.

He was extremely aggressive offensively in the first half tallying 11 points, including a couple of impressive dunks over Faried. However, Randle briefly exited the game after he was poked in the eye. 

Although he played the second half with goggles, Randle remained aggressive offensively that was highlighted by a nice reverse dunk over Faried. However, he was made just two of his six attempts in 18 minutes played in the final two quarters. 

It was a game that saw a lot of positives from Randle’s play, particularly his continued assertiveness on offense. Scott has been quite impressed with the 20-year-old’s performance through the first four games of the season but did see room for improvement on the defensive end of the court. 

“He keeps getting better,” Scott said. “Like most guys in this league he a had a tough time with Kenneth [Faried], keeping him off the glass. He takes a challenge, that’s the thing that I love about Julius.

“He has to learn, as a 20-year-old, how to play every play. Every now and then he gets caught standing up as well, just like most of our young guys. He’s getting better.”

It’s definitely an encouraging sign to see steady improvement from Randle, which gives Lakers fans much reason for the hope that he can develop into a great player in the league. 

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Bob Garcia IV

Staff Writer at Sports Out West
Bob Garcia IV is a sports journalist from Southern California. He's currently the Los Angeles Lakers beat writer for Sports Out West. He is also currently covering the NBA and NFL for ClutchPoints. 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, @BGarciaivsports.
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