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Nuggets Use Finishing Kick to Put Away L.A. Lakers
Stylistically, the Lakers were the perfect fit for a Nuggets team embarking on a journey to a brave new world of figuring out how to win games without injured star forwards Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap.
Practically, the Nuggets kicked into sixth gear to pull out the win. They punctuated their 10th home victory by going on a 15-0 run to end the game and beat the L.A. Lakers 115-100 on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. It was their seventh straight home win.
“We just locked in,” guard Jamal Murray said. “We played together the whole night. Coach talked about it on the bench that we’ve got to make plays down the stretch on defense, and it didn’t take us long to turn that around. We got together quick and came through as a unit together.”
Wilson Chandler’s absence due to a back injury meant the Nuggets played the game without three starters. Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried and Juancho Hernangomez were inserted into the starting lineup, and they infused a ton of energy into things.
But it was Murray’s shooting that ensured the Nuggets got off to a fast start. He nailed three 3-pointers in the first quarter on his way to 14 points in the opening frame, which helped set the Nuggets up with a 34-29 lead.
The Lakers, however, rallied, and by the end of the third quarter they had a two-point, 80-78, lead. But the Nuggets dug down and turned up the defensive intensity. They held the Lakers to 33.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and forced seven turnovers, which they converted into 12 points.
Meanwhile, different players took turns making big shots and critical plays.
Will Barton scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting. Gary Harris had steals on consecutive Lakers possessions that Barton turned into layups, the second of which gave the Nuggets a 100-98 lead. And when Lakers forward Brandon Ingram made a layup to tie the game at 100 with 3:57 remaining, the Nuggets did not allow another point the remainder of the game.
The Lakers went 0-for-4 with four turnovers in that span. The Nuggets went 3-for-5 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line in that span.
Six Nuggets ended up in double figures led by Murray’s 28 points. Trey Lyles finished with 18 points and Kenneth Faried added 13 points and nine rebounds. Mason Plumlee had 12 points, six rebounds and six assists. Defensively, the Nuggets had eight steals and six blocked shots, led by Barton’s four.
"Everybody contributed,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I’m very proud of our guys. When you have three starters out, you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can embrace the challenge. Our guys embraced the challenge and took advantage of it.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.