In a tight game in Denver, Kobe Bryant missed four of his last five shots in the final three and a half minutes allowing the Denver Nuggets to overtake the Los Angeles Lakers and pull away with a 99-90 win Sunday night.
The missed shots down the stretch were an extension of the rest of the game for Bryant, who shot 6-28 (and 1-8 on threes) for the game. The poor aim for Bryant came on the night he became the youngest player to ever reach 28,000 points scored and offset the stellar performances of Andrew Bynum (18 points, 16 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (20 points, 11 rebounds).
Bynum in particular was hard for the Nuggets to stop inside, making seven of his 12 shots, but he also missed six of his 10 free throws. His 16 rebounds were indicative of the work the Lakers, as a team, did on the defensive glass, limiting the Nuggets to only 5 offensive rebounds for the game. Bynum was limited to 28 minutes due to foul trouble in the game.
The Nuggets were able to take an 11-point lead into halftime by finishing the second quarter on an 8-0 run, led by the free throw shooting of Ty Lawson and Al Harrington and the unlikely offensive source of Chris Andersen, who hit two shots in the run.
The Nuggets are currently the fastest paced team in the NBA, according to Basketball-Reference, and Lawson is a big reason why. Against the Lakers, Lawson pushed the tempo and ended up with 17 points and 10 assists, his first double-double of the season. The aggressive style also provided for Denver getting to the foul line to make 32-37 free throws, a 13 free throws attempted advantage over the Lakers.
Andrew Feinstein of the Denver Stiffs agrees that the Nuggets are a different team with Lawson on the floor.
Lawson should be lobbying the Nuggets' coaching staff to get more playing time. Simply put, when Lawson is on the floor the pace is up and the Nuggets run circles around their opponents ... just as this team was, in theory, designed for.
The go-ahead play for the Nuggets occurred with 2:14 left in the game and the score tied at 90. Bryant missed a three-pointer and the rebound came to Metta World Peace, who was flying down the lane. Lawson wrestled the rebound away from World Peace, dribbled out quickly and sailed a downcourt pass to Danilo Gallinari for a wide open dunk, which Gallinari made and gave the Nuggets a 92-90 lead they would not relinquish. The Lakers would not score another point for the rest of the game.
C.A. Clark from Silver Screen and Roll takes the loss hard, and has some strong root cause analysis:
The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Denver Nuggets by a final score of 99-90, and they lost because Kobe Bryant is on their team. Not because Kobe had a bad game, not because Kobe made mistakes. The Lakers lost this game because Kobe Bryant suited up for it. Tonight's loss sits squarely on his shoulders, and he alone carries that burden.