Shorthanded Lakers Come Up Shy In Denver
Injury after injury left the Lakers cobbling together a crunch-time lineup, and Denver took advantage.
With Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams and Larry Nance Jr. unavailable, the Nuggets outscored Los Angeles by 11 in the final nine minutes for a 117-107 win.
“As far as the rotations and things like that, it put us in a little bit of a bind,” head coach Byron Scott said. “I had to play some lineups that hadn’t played together all year.”
Indeed, L.A. trotted out Marcelo Huertas, D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Brown, Julius Randle and Brandon Bass for the final stretch.
The Lakers actually broke an 85-point tie earlier when Nick Young splashed a 3-pointer with 9:12 left, but Denver’s D.J. Augustin took over from there.
Recently traded from Oklahoma City, Augustin — who entered the fourth quarter with only four points — became an inferno in the last period for his new team.
The Nuggets (24-37) immediately responded to Young’s triple with 10 unanswered points, as Augustin scored 22 in the fourth to push his team past the Lakers (12-50).
“Everybody knows they’ve got to step up when guys go down,” said Russell, who led L.A. with 24 points, six assists and only one turnover. “We were clicking, and then that happened. It was just adversity we didn’t handle well.”
Augustin finished the night with 26 points on a 7-of-11 clip, while knocking down each of his three 3-point attempts and all nine free throws. But it wasn’t only the backup point guard making noise, as starter Emmanuel Mudiay racked up 22 points and seven assists.
The closely contested tilt featured 18 leads and 14 ties, but Denver pulled away by taking advantage of opportunities. It significantly outscored the purple and gold on fast-breaks, 27-10, and second-chance opportunities, 17-2.
“I didn’t think we executed well at all, especially offensively,” Scott said. “Transition defense, again, was terrible. On the road, (the) two things you’ve got to do is not give teams easy baskets and execute on the offensive end.”
While the Lakers knew that Williams (strained hamstring) and Nance (sore knee) wouldn’t be available for this game, losing Bryant and Clarkson proved difficult.
Bryant — who missed the last two games with a sore shoulder — played only 11 minutes of the first quarter in his final trip to Denver.
“It’s my last time here,” Bryant said. “I think it’s important to get out there and play and show appreciation for all these years. Had it not been the case, I wouldn’t have played.”
Meanwhile, Clarkson started the game hot with 11 points in the first quarter alone. But, in the third, he strained his Patellar tendon in his left knee and did not return. He is expected to be re-evaluated on Thursday in Los Angeles.
“This is my first time ever having something like this happen,” Clarkson said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal. I’ll probably come in, rest tomorrow and then see what it is.”
Bryant finished with five points and passed Moses Malone for the 12th-most games played in NBA history (1,330). … Russell scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half. … Denver was without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (ankle). … A sold-out crowd of 20,096 packed Pepsi Center for Bryant’s final game in Denver.
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