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Lakers Firebombed by Melo-Less Nuggets

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lakersnugs01
lakersnugs01

I know what I'm going to see in my sleep tonight. It'll be Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith or maybe just a faceless player in a Denver Nuggets road jersey. They'll be jab-stepping, hopping behind the three-point line and swishing J's. One, then another, and then another. Why won't they stop? Someone make them stop!

The nightmare came to life at Staples Center this evening. Playing without Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggs took a flamethrower to the Lakers' building, hitting an insane 15 of 22 three-point shots on their merry way to a 126 to 113 win. Kobe Bryant was brilliant for a half to keep the Lakers in the game, but when he eventually fell off none of his teammates came to the rescue. It was a deeply embarrassing loss that drops the Lakers even further behind Cleveland in the battle for home-court advantage.

Those inclined to write off this loss as a fluke can make some legitimate points. Shooting nearly 70% from three-point range is obviously almost impossible to repeat. A few of those long bombs, such as Ty Lawson's 27-footer off the glass, were lucky punches.

Not that we Laker fans were complaining about luck when Kobe banked in a three to beat the Miami Heat two months ago.

And not all, or even most, of those threes were the result of good fortune. They were clean looks. Time and again the Lakers gave too much space to Denver shooters, and they exploited it. And you know what else is flukey? Denver playing without Carmelo. No, he wouldn't have made the Nuggets' offense any better tonight, because it really couldn't have been any better. But having Melo in the lineup means Denver wouldn't need to rely on off-the-charts accuracy from Billups and Smith.

More alarmingly, the game showed how dependent the Laker offense is on Kobe getting hot. When he was dropping in shots from all over in the first half, they rang up 1.31 points per possession. In the second half, when his shot faltered and he didn't get the whistles he wanted, the Lakers couldn't find enough points to keep up. Derek Fisher was a total zero, Andrew Bynum got owned on both ends by Nene, and although Pau Gasol worked hard especially on the offensive boards, shooting 8 for 17 doesn't cut it. Not helping matters was Phil Jackson's election to give 11 minutes to Sasha Vujacic, who shot 1 for 6.

Home-court advantage is now, definitively, Cleveland's to lose. The Cavs lead L.A. in the standings by two games and a tiebreaker. In the Western Conference, Denver is 3½ games back. And the Lakers tip off in Portland in less than 24 hours.

It's possible Mitch Kupchak really is satisfied with the roster as constituted. If so, I don't share his comfort level. The Lakers are still good enough to win the championship, but it's becoming increasingly clear that they're flawed enough to lose it as well.

 

Poss.

TO%

FTA/
FGA

FT%

3FGA/FGA

2PT%

3PT%

EFG

TS%

OReb Rate

DReb Rate

PPP

Den.

96

14

0.25

71

0.26

53

68

66

68

21

62

1.31

L.A.

96

13

0.20

85

0.27

50

31

49

53

38

79

1.18