The Nuggets have proven this season that if they are on their game they can beat anybody, but at the same time when they are off their game they can lose to anybody as well.
And for three quarters it looked like the Good Nuggets, who move the ball, trust each other and played aggressive on both sides of the ball were going to escape from L.A. with a victory. However, the Bad Nuggets returned late in the third when George Karl went to his bench as the Lakers pulled out the 95-89 victory.
In the two previous meetings between the two squads, Denver’s bench scored 43 and 47 points respectfully, but Sunday the Nuggets second unit scored a mere 15 points – the Lakers sixth man Lamar Odom alone scored 20 points.
However, it didn’t help that the Nugs were missing the captain of their second unit – rookie stud Ty Lawson – in the second half. Lawson injured his shoulder after running into Andrew Bynum late in the second quarter. Lawson has been the key to the Nuggets beating the Lakers this season.
Going into the contest, Lawson had averaged 13 points and 4.5 assists against the defending champions and he did it by shooting over 69 percent from the field and his speed killed the Lakers in the first half.
He drew fouls on Farmar and Bynum and pushed the Nuggets lead to 42-30 before having to leave the game due to his injury. And in the second half when Chauncey Billups needed a rest, Karl went to veteran Anthony Carter, who historically hasn’t played well against the Lakers.
- 2008 Playoffs - In the first round of the playoffs he had to guard Kobe Bryant and needless to say his 6-foot-2 size was no match for Bryant, who averaged 33.5 points in the series and shot .50 percent from the field and the Lakers won the series, 4-1.
- 2009 Regular Season - In the first matchup with the Lakers to open the 2009 season, AC once again had the impeccable job of guarding Kobe and once again Bryant shot lights out. He hit 11 of his 24 shots on his way to scoring 33 points. Carter on the other hand had 20 points and three turnovers.
- 2009 Playoffs – In the closing minutes of the opening game of the Western Conference Finals, Carter threw an ill-advised inbound pass with 30 seconds left in the contest that potentially cost the Nuggets the game and the series.
His struggles continued Sunday, but it wasn’t all his fault. Carter just doesn’t matchup well with the Lakers. He is predictable and has an inconsistent shot and for everything he brings on defense he isn’t the best passer or leader on the court.
With AC guiding the Nuggets, Denver was outscored 17-7 with three turnovers and going scoreless on 10 of 13 possessions. One possession ended with Nene having to shoot a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down. Nene has hit only one trey in his career.
Denver did make a comeback and Billups 3-pointer gave the Nuggets an 85-84 advantage. However, when Carmelo Anthony fouled out on a questionable offensive foul Denver couldn’t recover.
While Lawson is doubtful for tonight’s game against the Suns, Carter should step in and play well against Phoenix and harass Steve Nash up and down the court. But when the Nuggets face the Lakers in April it is pretty obvious that Lawson is the key to the Nuggets getting by the Lakers.
- Nene outperformed Andrew Bynum in the paint. Nene finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Bynum, who was hampered by fouls, scored only six points and pulled down six rebounds.
- Arron Afflalo played tough and smart defense against Bryant. He, with the help of JR Smith held Bryant to only 3-of-17 shooting and 14 points. Afflalo had 16 points and hit 3-of-7 threes.
- Smith had four steals.
- The biggest lowlight was the horrible offensive call that Courtney Kirkland called on Carmelo Anthony, which was his sixth and final foul of the game. Kirkland was out of position and the officials were letting Anthony and Ron Artest battle all game long. Melo also finished the game with eight turnovers
- Smith continues his streaky ways, scoring only seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.
- The Nuggets as a team shot only .359 from the field.
- K-Mart, who is coming back from a knee injury, scored only six points and missed both his free throws.
- Chris ‘The Birdman’ Andersen made absolutely zero impact on the game in 19 minutes. He did snag four rebounds, but that was it.
- Odom finished the contest with 20 points and 11 rebounds.