Lakers Retaliate With Comeback Win Over Nuggets
Four days ago, the Lakers suffered one of their more frustrating losses of the season up in Denver.
A fourth-quarter collapse ended with several Lakers players and coaches irritated by the trash-talking ways of Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray.
But with the location shifted to Los Angeles for the series finale, the Lakers seized their vengeance with a 112-103 win.
“It was a tough, physical game, and we were the tougher team,” Isaiah Thomas said. “We definitely took that from them.”
Thomas was the Lakers’ conductor in the fourth quarter, scoring a dozen of his 23 points off the bench.
The point guard also hit four 3-pointers and harassed the Nuggets’ defense out of pick-and-rolls. But his most devastating move came in isolation, as he drew Nikola Jokic on a switch and crossed up the center before skipping to the hoop.
Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle put in work in the front court, recording matching 26-point, 13-rebound efforts.
Kuzma had a frosty start to the game, missing his first five shots. But he found his groove in the third quarter, erupting for 16 of his points.
The rookie knocked down five 3-pointers and did a nice job of finding quality looks on spot-ups and off screens. That allowed him to establish a rhythm and hit some tough shots as well, including a sweeping hook and a transition Eurostep.
Kuzma sprained his right ankle on the final play of the third quarter, but returned to hit two triples in the fourth. He is questionable for Wednesday’s contest at Golden State.
Coach Luke Walton theorized that Kuzma’s tough-guy display was inspired by the Lakers’ guest speaker at their morning shootaround: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“I put him back in eventually and he helped us close out that game,” Walton said. “Maybe it was The Rock that motivated him to fight through that injury. Kuzma is a big wrestling fan.”
Randle also helped close the game, saving 11 of his points for the final quarter. He was too quick and strong for Denver’s bigs, constantly taking them off the dribble and getting to the bucket.
Julius Randle worked the Nuggets off the dribble.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) March 14, 2018
4 driving buckets for the power forward against 3 different defenders. pic.twitter.com/ldM1fioM18
The big man also made some of his best defensive plays of the year, including helping force two turnovers by Murray in the final two minutes.
Denver’s outspoken guard finished with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting with four giveaways. He was serenaded by boos and chants from the Lakers’ crowd — which has now seen 12 wins in their last 13 home games — each time he touched the ball.
L.A. had nice nights from Lonzo Ball (five points, nine rebounds, eight assists) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (10 points, eight rebounds, five assists). … Denver was led by Wilson Chandler (26 points, 10 rebounds). … A crowd of 18,997 — including Metta World Peace and Andy Garcia — sold out Staples Center.