LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 13: Matt Barnes #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on April 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets tonight by a final score of 103-97, and for the second straight contest, the main catalyst for victory was the most unlikely of sources, the combined efforts of small forwards Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace. If Wednesday was Metta's reminder to the world that he can, on occasion, put a team on his back offensively, tonight was Matt Barnes' turn to do the heavy lifting. 24 points for the reserve, who scored more points by himself than the entire bench unit normally averages in a contest, and he did it on just 11 shots while securing 10 boards. Metta stayed hot early, cooled down late, but still managed 14 points on 12 shots, 8 boards, and a ginormous 5 steals. And that Andrew Bynum guy was pretty good, too. Despite fast and hard double teams heading at the big man all night long, Drew was still able to put up 30 points, 8 boards, 3 assists and 3 blocks. He turned the ball over 4 times, but honestly, a nearly 1:1 assist to TO ratio for Drew is a good night.
As for the Nuggets, I feel fairly confident the Lakers might have lost this contest if George Karl had started the right team. The Denver starters were an impotent group, with only Aron Afflalo having what you might call a good game. But three guys on the Denver bench ensured the contest kept its dramatic intrigue into the final moments, with Andre Miller schooling these young kids all night long en route to 20 points and six assists, Al Harrington putting forth a noble effort on a bum knee, and JaVale McGee showing a surprising offensive repertoire on the evening, picking up a double double off the bench.
But Matt Barnes and Andrew Bynum were just too much to overcome. Every single one of Matt Barnes four three pointers made seemed like back breakers, coming at just the right time to kill the Nuggets' momentum. His, and Metta's, play may not be sustainable, may not be something the Lakers can count on night in, night out, but when the Lakers get this kind of production from the small forward position, they are very difficult to beat, because they happen to be pretty solid everywhere else on the court.