The Denver Nuggets went into Wednesday’s nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Lakers riding a four-game winning streak with Lakers head coach Frank Vogel deeming the Nuggets ”the hottest team in the West,” prior to the game.
Denver is fresh off of a win over the San Antonio Spurs where the Nuggets rallied back after being down by as many as 23-points to win the game.
Veteran forward Paul Millsap absolutely willed the Nuggets to victory, Jamal Murray closed San Antonio out and the Nuggets wanted to ride that momentum into a nationally televised battle between the No. 1 and No.2 teams in the Western Conference.
Denver had another solid offensive night but could not get enough stops late as their winning streak came to an end in a 120-116 overtime loss.
The Nuggets were able to overcome a few Lakers runs to get it into overtime but were only able to muster up five points in OT which led to the loss and with that, I give you, the good, bad and ugly.
Good – Great start for Denver
If the Nuggets played all four quarters the way that they did in the first quarter, there would not be a team in the league that would be able to beat Denver.
Denver started out a bit slow early on but once they got into a rhythm the Lakers had a difficult time slowing the Nuggets down.
The Nuggets got out and ran, hit a few 3-pointers and their defense was also on point as they got out to a 31-23 lead.
Torrey Craig is a player in particular that stood out in the initial frame as he gave the Nuggets energy on both ends of the floor.
Craig ended the first quarter with a very balanced stat line of five points, three rebounds and three assists. He also played some tough defense on LeBron James and attempted to slow him down.
Nikola Jokic and Murray also started out the game well as they both picked up where they left off in their last game. They finished the first quarter with nine points apiece.
The Nuggets shot 54% from the field in the first quarter while holding the Lakers to just 40%. Denver limited the Lakers’ open looks, ran them off of the 3-point line and also did not allow James or Anthony Davis to get going early.
Bad – Horrid second quarter
As good of a first-quarter as it was for the Nuggets, their second quarter was one that will give Nuggets head coach Michael Malone nightmares.
Denver went from rotating the basketball and playing sound defense to allowing the Lakers to get everything that they wanted, especially inside.
Los Angeles took a 61-55 lead at the halftime break after trailing by as many as 13 points in the first quarter as they hung 38 points up on the Nuggets defense in the frame alone.
Denver also could not get into a rhythm offensively in the quarter and it put the bench in a tough predicament.
The Lakers used an extended 25-6 run to close out the quarter and got the bulk of their points inside of the paint.
Los Angeles used their size and also got out on the break as they had 36 points in the paint.
James and Davis were not-so-shockingly the Lakers players that led the way for Los Angeles.
Davis had 15 points and five rebounds at the half with LeBron right behind him with 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists.
Seeing as how the Nuggets have become a second-half team, putting together a complete first half will set the tone for the rest of the game and put them in a better position to win it late.
The Nuggets had a good grip on this game early, but then let it get away with the second-quarter run.
Ugly – Playoff Possibility
If Wednesday night’s game is any indication of what a possible matchup between the Lakers and the Nuggets will look like in the playoffs then sign me up.
It was an ESPN televised game between two of the top teams in the NBA and it did not disappoint.
It was a playoff-like atmosphere with energy that was felt from the opening tip. There were plenty of highlights and it came down to the wire with the Lakers winning in overtime.
The Nuggets continued to show their fight and prove that no matter who it is that they are playing, they are a resilient bunch that gets after it.
For Denver to be in the game and also force the Lakers into overtime while playing without their starting forward Will Barton III, backup center Mason Plumlee, and spark-plug off of the bench in Michael Porter Jr. is a testament to how deep and talented the Nuggets are.
Los Angeles got big nights from their best players.
LeBron had a vintage type of night as he finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and also dished out 14 assists to go along with it.
He had countless dunks in the game and appeared to have sipped from the fountain of youth as he kept the Nuggets defense on their heels all night.
Davis also went off.
He had 33 points in the game including some overtime daggers. He hit two 3-pointers in overtime to give Los Angeles the lead and also pulled down some game-winning rebounds as well.
The Nuggets were without key players and also rode their best players to give them a chance to win it.
Murray finished with 32 points and had 10 assists with Jokic scoring 22 points but still, the Nuggets were not able to execute down the stretch and come away with the victory.
The two teams will face-off against each other only one more time after the All-Star break but this was a glimpse at a possible playoff matchup and that would be fun.