The Los Angeles Lakers lost again on Tuesday night. This time, the Denver Nuggets came to town and scored 120 points as the Lakers yet again failed to execute on the defensive end of the floor. After Tuesday's loss, the Lakers rank dead last in points allowed: 116.8.
In the first quarter, Julius Randle led the Lakers to a fast start with seven points in the first eight minutes, but Jordan Clarkson started even stronger. Clarkson played all 12 minutes of the quarter and made 6/7 shots for 14 points, setting the tone. Clarkson would finish with 30 points, which tied the second-year player's career-high.
Offensively, the Lakers played well enough and finished with 109 points. Defensively, though, the Lakers failed to stop Denver in the painted area, particularly Kenneth Faried. Faried grilled the Lakers on the boards and fried them at the rim. The "Manimal" finished with 28 points on 10-13 shooting, along with 15 rebounds on the night, and the athletic power forward proved instrumental in providing Denver its second win of the season.
Sixteen of the Nuggets' first 22 points came in the painted area, meaning the Lakers gave up easy buckets early in the game, when the home team had its offense clicking. Due to their Swiss cheese defense, the Lakers only led by six points despite shooting 54.5 percent from the field in the first quarter.
The second quarter featured Clarkson and Randle, the Lakers' Class of 2014, displaying tremendous growth and continuing to put points on the scoreboard. Clarkson finished the half with 20 points on 8-10 shooting, while Randle entered the locker room with 11 points. However, the 20-year-old hulking power forward left the court with 3:38 to play in the second quarter after being poked in the eye. Randle would emerge for the second half donning glasses to protect his affected eye. After the game, Randle said he would likely wear the glasses in the next game, too.
Despite the strong performances of Randle and Clarkson, the Lakers entered the locker room trailing by three points, as the Nuggets did an especially good job of getting to the foul line in the second quarter. Denver made 19 of 21 free throws in the period. In contrast, the Lakers only attempted two free throws over that same stretch of time. Randle would eventually finish with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block shot.
The highly touted rookie match up of Emmanuel Mudiay versus D'Angelo Russell went to Mudiay, but that went down more to minutes than strong play. Mudiay entered halftime with two points on 0-5 shooting and four assists, while Russell entered the locker room on 1-7 shooting for two points and five assists.
During the halftime, Russell asked to guard Mudiay, according to Clarkson. So, Clarkson gave the rookies a head-to-head battle. The Nuggets' rookie took advantage of his Lakers' counterpart to the tune of four points and three assists over the first 6:36 of the third quarter. To his credit, Russell balanced that with five points and an assist over that span, but the Lakers' rookie took a seat at that stage in the game. Surprisingly, the 19-year-old failed to return to the court for the remainder of the game and shared his frustrations with watching from the sidelines after the game.
"I have no idea," Russell freely answered when asked what he had to do to get on the court at the end of games. "(It's) something I got to deal with."
When asked about inexperience on defensive reads, Russell: "I don't know. I was just watching. It's different when you're out there." — Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) November 4, 2015
With Russell watching from the sidelines, the Nuggets doubled their third quarter lead from five points, when Russell left the game, to 10 points, when the third quarter ended. In the fourth quarter, LA rallied to cut the difference down to three points with 5:04 to play, as Lou Williams continued to get to the foul line. Williams would finish with 24 points and 16 of his points coming off free throws. However, the Nuggets repeatedly answered the Lakers' foul shots with made buckets, and LA failed to get stops down the stretch.
When the dust settled, the scoreboard read 120-109, and the Lakers left their home floor with an 0-4 record and to a soundtrack of boos. LA now hits the road for a six-game road trip.
"We just keep working. That's all we can do," Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game. "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."
Scott added, "We're going to keep pushing at it and plugging at it, and they're going to get it. It's going to take us some time, but we're going to get it."
Kobe Bryant on 19th anniversary of NBA debut: "Went by pretty fast" — Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) November 4, 2015
Kobe Bryant had an up and down night. Off to a promising start, Bryant found Randle on an early bucket and made his first shot, but the 20-year veteran missed a couple shots badly (didn't draw iron) before going to the bench. Foul trouble limited the 37-year-old to only 12 minutes in the first half, and Bryant managed nine points on 3-6 shooting to that point.
In the third period, Bryant missed three of his four shot attempts, but the "Black Mamba" began to pass with greater efficiency and recorded three assists in eight minutes. He set up Russell for a three-point and a layup before finding Randle for the poweful reverse layup.
In the fourth, Bryant only attempted one shot and again shot up an airball. To his credit, he did not force up shots and instead fed Williams regularly down the stretch, as the craft guard found his way to the foul line time and again. Bryant moved the ball, recorded an assist and committed two fouls and went turnover free over the final eight minutes and 15 seconds.
On this night, Bryant allowed his teammates to win or lose the game. He finished with 11 points on 4-11 shooting to go with five assists, two steals and three rebounds. On the whole, Tuesday night likely goes down as no. 24's best outing of the young season.
Notes: Tarik Black made his first appearance of the season and stepped in for Roy Hibbert with the units that finished each of the halves, as a more athletic option at the center position. Black scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds in 18 total minutes.