On Monday night, the Los Angeles Lakers lost big in Denver, 129-101, as a national audience struggled to watch a blowout that failed to provide any drama.
In truth, the contest was anything but, well, a contest.
The Nuggets led by 13 points after the first 12 minutes and put up 67 points in the first half. LA trailed by 24 points at the halftime intermission, as the Nuggets cruised to victory with seven different players scoring in double figures.
"There was a message. Hopefully, it was heard," Lakers Luke Walton spoke about a "lack of competing" on Spectrum Sportsnet following the game.
In searching for positives, the coach muttered, "(Ivica) Zubac was good. Brandon (Ingram) in the second half, when he actually played, was good."
Zubac provided the bright spot of the night, with the 19-year-old Croatian making his second straight start and finishing with a career-high 25 points, to go along with 11 rebounds. That made Zubac the first ever Lakers' teenager to finish with 25+ points in a double-double.
Despite the Lakers losing by 28 points, LA actually finished net +8 points while Zubac was on the court. The only other Lakers' player to finish with a positive line in that category was Metta World Peace, who played five minutes in the second quarter when Walton seemingly lost his cool, got a technical foul and lost his patience with his young players.
All in all, Monday night was an odd game before it even started. On the second night of a back-to-back, Walton started the night by changing his starting lineup by sending D'Angelo Russell to the bench and starting Jordan Clarkson only one night before he'd changed his starting lineup to demote Nick Young to a bench role and start David Nwaba. Also, Zubac had been promoted to start over Tarik Black on Sunday night.
Clarkson responded to the promotion with a strong start, and the Lakers hung with the Nuggets for the first eight minutes of the game. When Walton turned to Russell and his new-look second unit, though, LA failed to compete. What had been a one-possession game turned into a 13-point deficit to close the quarter, and Denver never looked back.
When Walton pulled Russell for World Peace with 5:03 remaining in the first half, LA trailed by 27 points. To close the half, Russell, Ingram and Julius Randle all sat and watched from the bench as their team got embarrassed on national television.
For the night, the lineup experiment had failed, though it remains unclear if Walton will change lineups again ahead of Thursday night's game in Houston or stick with Clarkson as a starter.
Ivica Zubac after loss: "All the young guys are playing, we should all be happy to be on the court...We should be ashamed"
(on @SpectrumSN) pic.twitter.com/Gg3sXSK2eV — Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) March 14, 2017
The last time LA was in Houston, the Rockets ran up the score and won by 39 points, so one would expect the worst team in the Western Conference is not about to get an easy break when it faces the third best team in the conference.
Is there any good news for the Lakers? Well, LA now only has 15 games remaining in a mentally grueling season. Looking at the calendar, the season will be over in less than a month.