Los Angeles

Lakers Struggle Late, Fall to Nuggets

The Los Angeles Lakers led by three points with six minutes remaining in the game

On Friday night, the Los Angeles nearly stole a road victory in Colorado, but the sharp shooting Denver Nuggets took advantage of the visitors' poor execution down the stretch to claim their 25th home victory in 35 tries, 125-116.

The Denver Nuggets started the night by hitting two three-pointers, and that set the tone for the evening. Denver would go on to make 15 three-pointers on 31 attempts on a night when giving an extra point for the long range try seemed unnecessary. Both team ended the night shooting at least 40 percent from beyond the three-point line, with the Nuggets finishing at 48.4 from three.

After starting with a couple treys, the Nuggets hung 37 points on the Lakers in the first quarter. In the second quarter, though, the Lakers returned serve with a 34-point outburst, and the game went into the intermission with the two teams only separated by three points: 65-62.

In particular, Lakers center Brook Lopez continued his strong offensive showing from a couple nights earlier. Lopez topped his 27 points against Orlando on Wednesday with 29 points on 12-18 shooting against Denver on Friday. After failing to record a single rebound against Orlando, the center grabbed five boards and two assists, but the 29-year-old free agent-to-be couldn't grab back-to-back victory for his club.

After leading 4-3 within the first 70 seconds of the game, the Lakers trailed all the way until late in the third quarter when they took a 91-90. The Nuggets had led by as many as 13 points, but LA seemed to always stay close enough to make a run. As mentioned earlier, the three-point shot was dropping for both ball clubs, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting five of his 10 attempts and three other Lakers making at least two three-pointers each.

On the road, the Lakers found themselves leading by three points at the midway point in the fourth quarter: 110-107. Then, they fell apart. The Lakers missed four shots and committed two turnovers before Lopez got a put-back dunk to stop the bleeding and keep the Lakers within four points.

While the Lakers had stumbled, Jamal Murray, Paul Milsap and Will Barton had found the bottom of the net and put the Nuggets in pole position for the win. Murray ended the night with a team-high 22 points, including 10-11 from the foul line, and eight assists. Milsap finished with 21 points and six rebounds, while Barton hit three of his six three-point attempts and tabbed 13 points on the night.

Lopez would follow up hit put-back dunk with another bucket to draw the Lakers within two points with 2:40 remaining in the game. That was as close as the Lakers would get. The purple and gold only scored two more points for the remainder of the game to record a dismal total of 20 points in the final quarter and only six points in the final six minutes.

Those final two points came via a tip dunk from Lonzo Ball, who had a positive outing in the loss. The rookie continued to stuff the box score with 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block. Though he missed seven of his eight attempts from distance, the point guard made six of his eight attempts from two-point territory.

Ultimately, allowing the Nuggets to score 30 points in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over seven times in the final 12 minutes and shooting 2-11 from distance in the fourth quarter doomed LA.

With the defeat, LA fell to 29-36 on the season. Next, the Lakers hosts LeBron James, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

Notes: All five starters for the Lakers scored in double figures. The Lakers added Derrick Williams on a 10-day contract ahead of the game, but Williams did not enter the game. Late in the game, Lakers coach Luke Walton seemed to be upset at something said by one of the Nuggets' players, and the Spectrum broadcast seemed to suggest that Murray was responsible. Murray had previously had a skirmish with the Lakers after dribbling around Ball in an earlier meeting after the game had effectively ended. Incidentally, the Lakers and Nuggets faceoff again on Tuesday at STAPLES Center.

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