No matter how many members of their 57-win squad they lost in the offseason, the Nuggets still haven't found a way to lose to the Lakers in Denver.
The Nuggs posted their fourth straight win against the Lakers (tying the longest streak in franchise history), with a 111-99 rundown in the Mile High City. Denver's big men did most of the damage, with Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov and JJ Hickson combining for 48 points, 30 rebounds and 5 blocks. Together, they limited Pau Gasol to 11 for 27 shooting, hounded Chris Kaman into a 3 for 9 night and generally set a surprising defensive tone for their squad. The trio also did their part in outrebounding a Lakers team that prides itself on outhustling their opponents, grabbing 7 more boards which no doubt led to a 6 FGA edge. In a surprise development to no one that's watched the Lakers for the past decade, speedy point guard Ty Lawson added to the mix with a 19/6/7, destroying LA inside-out.
The Lakers simply couldn't get a consistent offensive flow going all night, try as they might. The game was actually far more competitive than the final score would indicate, though I could have cut and pasted that line from most of their six losses this year. LA cut the lead down to just four points at the end of the third quarter, but a 10-0 run at the beginning of the final frame put the game away for good.
Leading the way for the Lakers was again Jordan Hill, who continued his superb play in a starting role with an 18 point, 15 rebound, 3 block night. He supplemented his stat stuffing line with surprisingly able rim protection in the paint. Neck and neck with Hill for game honors was Steve Blake, who threw down a 15/6/11 night and consistently led the way as the Lakers tried to keep it close.
Tonight the story was the same: no one can accuse this team of slacking, as they hustled and scrapped every bit of the way, but simply lacked the defensive chops to get the proper stops when needed.
Admirable, sure. But good enough to make the playoffs? I'm not so sure.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino