Nuggets Triumphant Against Lakers

The Denver Nuggets recorded their fourth straight victory, downing the Los Angeles Lakers 117-85 at Pepsi Center Tuesday.

Playing without their starting shooting guard Gary Harris, who was sidelined with a sore left ankle, Denver jumped out to an early 15-9 lead and seldom looked threatened the rest of the way as they held off superstar LeBron James and company. The Nuggets led by four after the first quarter, eight at the half an exploded in the third when they outscored the Lakers by 10 to take an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Veteran Paul Millsap and third-year point guard Jamal Murray got things going early for the Nuggets offensively. Millsap, a 6-8 power forward scored seven of Denver’s first 15 and dropped his third double-double of the season, finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Murray put up 15 of his 20 in the first half and added three rebounds and four assists to hand the their most lopsided loss of the season.

“That’s our identity,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of his team’s defensive prowess. “For us to be 21 games in and us to still be defending at the level we’re defending at says a lot. It speaks to the mind and the commitment and the fact that our guys realize, ‘Regardless of the offense, when we defend, we’re a team that can beat anybody.”

Nuggets guard Malik Beasley had his finest performance as a pro. The Florida State product poured in a career-high 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 2 of 6 from 3-point range in 35 minutes off the bench.

“I want to say thanks to my teammates on the bench like Will Barton and Gary Harris, they were all trying to get me to go for 20 when I had like 16, 18,” Beasley said. “It’s cool man. It’s the first of many. We got the win. It was the largest win against the Lakers in (Nuggets) history.”

Juancho Hernangómez had 12 points. Mason Plumlee had his second double-double in his last three contests with 10 points and as many rebounds to help his team improve to 14-7 and 9-3 at home.

The Nuggets dominated on the glass, out-rebounding the Lakers 60-39 while shooting 48.5 percent from the field compared to L.A.’s 39.1.

James, who came in to the game as the NBA’s third-leading scorer, came out firing. The four-time league MVP and three-time MVP scored 10 in the first quarter. However, Denver, fourth in defensive rating, limited him to a season-low 14 points on 5 of 15 shooting.

“We gave him different looks. Paul was on him, Mase was on him, two bigger guys,” Malone said, breaking down the Nuggets’ defensive strategy against James. “Listen, a lot of times, you’re just hoping LeBron’s missing shots. The best way to stop LeBron James is to hope he misses.”

The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma led all scorers 21 points. Brandon Ingram was the only other player for Los Angeles (11-9) in double-figures in scoring with 14 points.

The Nuggets begin a five-game road trip when they face the Portland Trail Blazers Friday at 8:30 p.m. MT. That game will be broadcast live on Altitude TV and streamed AltitudeNOW.

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