An object in motion stays in motion
Lots of folks are familiar with the famous phrase which gave birth to the concept of momentum. Tonight, we saw the less famous half of the momentum equation: An object at rest stays at rest.
Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers were at rest all over the court. They rested as the Denver Nuggets chalked up offensive rebounds on 43% of their missed baskets. They rested as the Nuggets scored 58 points in the paint. They rested as one of the worst shooting teams in the league rained down open three after open three. And, most symbolic of all, on a night in which he was already resting on the court, Dwight Howard decided he'd rather rest off of it. His completely unnecessary flagrant 2, and the automatic ejection that comes with it, gave the Nuggets energy, motivation, and 18 minutes of basketball in which the Lakers had no answer for their pick and roll attack.
Just like that, the momentum of a five game winning streak is gone. Not in the normal way that momentum disappears, not because an outside force stopped them cold. Instead, the Lakers brought themselves to rest. Metaphorically. Figuratively. In Dwight Howard's case, literally.
Lots of folks are quick to point out that losing this game, the annual LA to Denver back to back, is an annual rite of passage for any Lakers season. But this time around, it was the Nuggets who had the more difficult travel schedule, playing (ironically) in Los Angeles last night. When the Lakers arrived in Denver last night, the Nuggets were still losing to the Clippers. So yeah, that crutch just doesn't belong. Denver was the home team tonight, and they are the more energetic team by nature, but these aren't excuses. They are simple facts, and they are not enough to write off the Lakers' lackluster effort.
On the bright side, things continue to look good on the offensive side of things with Steve Nash at the helm. LA's 114 points on exactly 100 possessions is a fine mark, one that should be good enough to win any contest. Kobe was damn near flawless on the offensive end with 40 points on 24 shots and six assists. Steve Nash was ever more so, though with slightly lesser volume, going for 15 points on 6-8 shooting along with 8 assists. Pau Gasol even had his best offensive performance of the season with 19 points on 7-11 shooting, including a moment in the 1st half in which he moonlighted as a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki with two quick threes. But they couldn't undo the sloppiness of a first half which deserves to be set to the Benny Hill theme, and they certainly couldn't undo Howard's foolishness.
None of which would have mattered if the Lakers didn't give up 69 points in the 2nd half. The reasons why this game was lost are not mysterious, just surprising. Corey Brewer and the entire Nuggets roster went batshit crazy from the outside in the 2nd half. Brewer, a career 31% 3 pt shooter, went 6-7 from downtown en route to 27 points in 24 minutes. The Nuggets, ranked 27th in the league in team 3 pt FG %, ended the game 12-22 from three after starting the game 1-7. For context, this is the same team that broke an NBA record for futility with an 0-22 game from three point range less than a week ago.
Now, the Lakers have to start clawing their way back into the light all over again. It will be a difficult challenge, as it always is to start moving from a dead stop. It's a hell of a lot easier to keep things going once they are already moving. But the Lakers are no longer in motion.
They decided to be at rest instead.