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Nuggets Suffer Through Frustrating Night in Loss to Lakers
LOS ANGELES – Problems compounded quickly in the Nuggets 127-109 loss to the L.A. Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center. And they were too much to overcome.
"Give them credit,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We went into the game worried about them scoring in the paint, and tonight they scored 70 points in our paint, which is way too many. So, tough loss, and obviously we have a great challenge (Monday) in Sacramento.”
The Nuggets’ first issue was the Lakers themselves. Los Angeles came out with a high activity level, and that began with the play of two bigs – Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. That duo sparked a big night of production, especially in the paint where the Nuggets knew coming into the game was a key area to stop.
The Nuggets second issue was playing without star center Nikola Jokic and coach Michael Malone. Both were ejected in the second quarter for arguing a non-call on a play where it appeared Jokic was pushed in the back going up for a rebound. That was with 6:20 still left on the clock. When Jordan Clarkson was through hitting the technical free throws, the Nuggets were down 20 points.
“I’ll be honest, I deserved to get tossed,” Malone said. “But Nikola Jokic did nothing to warrant an ejection. That is something that we’ll try to look into a little bit if we can.”
Things didn’t get much better from there.
Paul Millsap was forced to leave the game with a left wrist sprain. He hurt it early on and tried to play through it, but eventually couldn’t. So, the Nuggets were forced to play without their top two scorers and rebounders.
The Lakers pushed their lead to 24 points before the Nuggets began chipping away at it. They did cut it to 15 by the end of the third quarter, but the Lakers continued to play well enough to see the game through.
Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball had a triple-double in the game, finishing with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, couldn’t find a consistent shooting touch from the field. They shot just 42.9 percent, took 16 fewer shots than the Lakers and made 17 fewer field goals than L.A. did. The Nuggets were outscored 70-44 in points in the paint.
Gary Harris scored 20 points to lead the Nuggets, who play at Sacramento on Monday. Wilson Chandler finished with 17 points, Will Barton had 12 points, and Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray all had 10 points apiece.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter