Nuggets Snap Losing Streak With Win Over Lakers
Coming into Wednesday night’s showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers (30-35), the Denver Nuggets (43-21) knew they had to start out strong and rely on their ball movement to turn things around, which is exactly what they did in a 115-99 victory. Denver finished with 33 assists in the game and utilized a strong advantage on the boards to withstand a late run from the Lakers and get back in the win column.
"After losing three in a row, with 19 games to go, we felt like this was a must-win,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone admitted. “For our guys to pull it out after they had cut it to two, we're going to be in a lot more close games so the more we do this the better off we're going to be."
After struggling early in the last game against the San Antonio Spurs, Denver came out strong in the first quarter. Will Barton knocked down two 3-pointers on the team’s first two possessions, and Denver jumped out to an early 8-2 lead. After LeBron James responded with two 3-pointers of his own, Denver used strong ball movement to consistently generate quality offense. Barton led the way with 14 points in the quarter (including four 3-pointers) as Denver took a 43-25 lead into the second frame.
As expected, the Lakers attempted to make a comeback in the second quarter, using a 9-0 run to get within 13 points of Denver. The scoring run was highlighted by LeBron James passing Michael Jordan for fourth place in the all-time scoring list. The Nuggets responded to the Lakers’ run with mid-range jumpers from Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray to regain control of the game. Denver also attacked the offensive glass in the first half, finishing with nine offensive rebounds compared to just one for the Lakers. The Nuggets used their ball movement and rebounding advantage to take a 66-49 lead at the break.
Denver continued to build their lead on the boards early in the third quarter, grabbing three offensive rebounds that led to consecutive 3-pointers from Murray and Barton. A 10-4 run to begin the second half allowed Denver to quickly extend their lead 23. However, the Lakers responded with a 24-9 run of their own to cut their deficit down to just eight heading into the final frame, with Denver leading 85-77.
The Lakers jumped out of the gates in the fourth quarter, using an 8-2 run to cut Denver’s lead down to just two. Alex Caruso was a driving force in the run, scoring 4 quick points to start the final quarter. However, the Nuggets used strong defense and eleven straight points from Gary Harris to extend the lead back to nine.
Michael Malone was excited to watch Harris come alive and lead Denver in the fourth quarter, stating “that’s the Gary Harris that we’ve become accustomed to seeing down the stretch of the fourth quarter. I think this is going to be great for Gary, just to get his confidence and rhythm back, because he’s a big part of what we do.”
After Los Angeles eventually cut the lead down to just two, Denver closed the game on a 26-12 run over the final eight minutes to secure the victory and snap the three-game losing streak. The Nuggets finished with a 55-41 rebounding advantage and took advantage of 12 turnovers committed by the Lakers.
Will Barton led the way for Denver with 23 points on 8-16 shooting from the field. Denver had five players in double-figures, getting key contributions from Jamal Murray (19 points), Gary Harris (19), Paul Millsap (16) and Nikola Jokić (12 points, 17 rebounds and 8 assists).
The Lakers were led by LeBron James, who scored 31 points. JaVale McGee (16 points), Alex Caruso (15) and Mortiz Wagner (11) were the other Lakers in double-figures.
The Nuggets travel to face the Golden State Warriors on Friday at 8:30 p.m. That game will be broadcasted live on Altitude TV and steamed on AltitudeNOW.