Good, bad and ugly: Nuggets destroy Lakers behind bench mob

Denver Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. (R) and head coach Michael Malone react after a play in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center.
Nov 27, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. (R) and head coach Michael Malone react after a play in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, the Denver Nuggets were in third place in the Western Conference with only a half game separating them from first place. The defense has been improved, the offense has finally started to take shape, and Denver’s bench has looked like one of the best in the league.

In Denver’s game on Tuesday, all of those things were on display as the Nuggets annihilated the Los Angeles Lakers by a score of 117-85. The Nuggets are still in third place in the Western Conference, but they have applied pressure on the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors

The Nuggets have seemed to have found a rhythm at the right time and, with Denver now on a four-game winning streak, I give you the good, bad and ugly.

The Good – Everyone on the Nuggets played well

Denver might have had their best overall game of the young season. Their victory was a complete team effort. Not only did the starters play well, but the bench was strong all night too. Denver outscored the Lakers bench by 22 points while holding Los Angeles — who is a top-five team in the NBA in pace — to a season low 85 points and only allowed them to shoot 39 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from beyond the arc.

There have been games this season when the starters were the reason for Denver’s win as well as games where the second unit carried the load. The Nuggets matchup against the Lakers was a game in which the entire team produced.

Paul Millsap and Jamal Murray led the team as they both recorded 20 points apiece and they were awarded the luxury of sitting for the entire fourth quarter which allowed the second unit to continue to shine.

The second unit was hyper-effective all night. Monte Morris finished with seven points and seven assists without committing a turnover as he orchestrated the second unit like a symphony. Mason Plumlee had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds including great defense in his 20 minutes of action. But, even with the great play of Plumlee and Morris, the player who really stood out among the Nuggets reserves was Malik Beasley who finished the night tied for a game-high 20 points which is also a new career high for him.

Beasley has been instant offense for Denver all year. He is not afraid to shoot any shot, he is capable of getting hot at any time, and that was seen as he went on a 5-0 run early in the game. He provided the energy for the second unit like he has all season long.

Beasley’s career-high 20 points came on 8-of-14 shooting from the field as he also knocked down a couple of 3-pointers as well. He has also been great on the defensive end and that was seen in his two steals. Beasley has become a reliable player that Malone could call for off of the bench.

When Beasley was leaving the locker room after the win, and with the game ball in his hands, he made sure to remind everyone that this is going to be the “first of many” game balls that he will be getting in his career.

The Bad – No Harris for a second straight game

Torrey Craig had to move into the starting lineup as the Nuggets were without starting shooting guard Gary Harris for a second straight game due to a sore left ankle.

Before Tuesday’s game Michael Malone spoke to media on Harris’ availability stating that he went through morning shootaround but was limited. Harris did not play in the game which appears to be the right decision for Malone to preserve Harris’ health. Denver had two days off heading into the game and Harris now also gets an additional two days off before taking on the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night to kick off Denver’s looming five-game road trip.

The decision to sit Harris seems to be precautionary. Now, he can continue to rest and receive around the clock treatment with additional days off. Denver now has a long and tough road trip ahead of them and the they will need Harris, who has been their most consistent player for the past two years.

The Ugly – Road Trip Upcoming

With the Nuggets beating the Lakers by 32 points, it is very difficult to find a negative in Tuesday night’s win, so let’s take a look ahead instead.

Denver is 14-7 on the season which is good for third place in the West, but the Nugget’s now begin a five-game road trip starting with the Portland Trailblazers, who are just a game and a half behind Denver and are looking to turn things around after three-straight losses. From there, Denver will face off against the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Charlotte Hornets, and Atlanta Hawks before returning back to the Pepsi Center.

Each of these games are winnable, except maybe Denver’s matchup with the Raptors in Toronto, especially if Denver is playing as well as they have been on defense. Like years past, the Nuggets have been solid at home as they have a 9-3 record at the Pepsi Center but have struggled a bit on the road as they sit at 5-4.

Starting out the road trip with a victory against the Trail Blazers and pushing their win streak to five games while also picking up another division win can go a long way in securing a playoff spot. Every win matters in the Western Conference and Denver will have to play very well on the road to keep their winning ways going.