With LeBron James resting with various injuries, the Los Angeles Lakers had their lack of playmaking behind him exposed in an 128-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night. The defeat was the team’s third loss in a row (continuing a season-high losing streak) and dropped L.A. to 24-6 on the year.
With Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley replacing LeBron James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the starting lineup — the latter of whom played but came off the bench — the Lakers turned the ball over 19 times in the game compared to just 7 for the Nuggets, coughing the ball up more times than they assisted (just 18 total assists) allowing themselves to get outscored 21-9 in fast-break points as a result.
Rondo finished with 5 points, 8 assists and 2 turnovers in his start.
The Lakers stuck around for most of the first half due to a combination of factors: The greatness of Anthony Davis, and their effort on the glass. L.A. outscored Denver 19-5 in second-chance points over the first two quarters, but the Nuggets managed to stop their bleeding on the boards in the second half as the Lakers finished the game with 22 second-chance points.
As in nearly every game this year, Davis was mostly excellent, finishing with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but he had to force things — finishing with 5 turnovers — and needed more help that he just didn’t get from this Lakers roster. Kyle Kuzma tried to step up in his first game back in the lineup after dealing with an ankle sprain, but while he was game to shoot, he was out of rhythm and ended the night with 7-15 with 2 turnovers.
The Lakers are next set to take on the LA Clippers at home on Christmas Day, and while they’re still doing just fine in the standings and it’s not time to freak out, Sunday did illustrate just how badly this team will need LeBron healthy in order to do much of anything this year. This team is special, but even the nicest sports car doesn’t work without its engine. As James works his way back from injury, they should proceed with as much caution as possible to make sure that when he gets back in the lineup, he stays there for the rest of the year.