Good, bad & ugly: Nuggets shooting woes lead to loss to Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots a jump shot in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
Dec 3, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots a jump shot in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are coming off of their most disappointing loss of the entire season when they fell to the Sacramento Kings. They were up by as many as 14-points heading into the fourth quarter before seemingly losing interest and the game as a result.

In Tuesday’s game, there were no loss of interest being that there was plenty of motivation for both teams. The Lakers are the first seed in the Western Conference while the Nuggets sat right behind the Lakers in the second seed.

LeBron James and the Lakers came into the Mile High City and put on a show as Los Angeles pulled further ahead in the conference standings with a 105-96 victory over the Nuggets.

In a game that displayed Denver’s shooting woes, I give you the good, bad and ugly.

Good – Park Hill night a success

The good from Tuesday’s game does not go to any particular individual that played in the battle of the top seeds in the West, but in fact, went to the Nuggets organization as a whole.

Tuesday night was special for me in particular as it recognized and celebrated the Denver neighborhood in which I grew up in; Park Hill, Colorado.

The Nuggets went to historic Park Hill/City Park landmarks such as the Denver Zoo and Denver East High School but ended up at Hiawatha Davis Jr. Recreation Center which is notoriously known as the home that ‘King of Park Hill’ Chauncey Billups built.

One of Billups’ former coaches, and Joint Effort Founder, John Bailey was interviewed about Billups. He also spoke on what it is like living in Park Hill and what Billups means to the community.

Denver also debuted their black Rainbow Skyline City uniform for the first time.

Plenty of fans in the sold-out crowd were decked out in the Nuggets new uniforms and, although Denver lost, it was a surreal experience in which the Nuggets organizations did a great job of recognizing one of its great neighborhoods.

Bad – First half struggles

There were plenty of things that did not go the Nuggets way on Tuesday evening, but considering how Denver came out of the gates, it is no shocker that they lost Tuesday’s game.

Denver did not shoot well from beyond the arc, did not get back to their man in transition, and were dominated completely on the boards early on which forced them to play catch up all evening.

The Lakers went into the second quarter with a 17-7 advantage on the boards and did not slow down from there as the rebounding advantage, Denver’s shooting slump, and free-throw discrepancies ended up being the difference-makers in the game.

Not only were the Nuggets heavily out-rebounded early in the game, but James got off to a hot start which put the Nuggets in a hole in which they could not overcome.

There was no resistance on James early on as he finished with 11 of his 25 points in the opening frame alone and he got plenty of help from his Lakers teammates to take an 11-point lead into the halftime intermission.

The Nuggets bench got Denver within striking distance in the second quarter, but their defense could not get enough stops to slow the Lakers down as Los Angeles had their highest-scoring quarter of the evening.

Denver had a chance to get back in the game and even took a quick third-quarter lead, but their early-game struggles against such a talented team were too much for the Nuggets and set the tone for the rest of the night.

Denver has yet to have a game where they have put it all together for four complete quarters. For as talented and deep as the Nuggets are, if they are able to get off to better starts then they will be able to beat any team in the league.

Ugly – What’s up with Jokic?

Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Nuggets All-Star big man had three-straight games in which he did not reach double figures.

While he did finally reach double figures, finishing with 13 points against the Lakers, he still does not look like his usual self.

Jokic got off to a sluggish start as he only took three shots in the first half. He missed two and did not score his first basket until there were only a few seconds remaining in the first half.

In the second half, Jokic picked it up a bit, but he still was in a funk as he went 4-12 from the field and finished with only five rebounds in the game. He spoke about his struggles after the game.

“I don’t know. I never struggle,” Jokic said to media after Denver’s fifth loss of the season. “I never thought I was struggling, but right now I cannot make shots so it is what it is.”

Jokic’s offense has taken a massive dip from last season and plenty of it has to do with him not shooting the ball as well.

He has posted up less, has not consistently knocked down 3-pointers, and the offense does not seem to be running through him, something that Jokic feels has been on him.

“Coach is a smart guy,” Jokic stated. “He is not going to give the ball to the guy who is not making the shots. I am cool with it. I am good.”

Jokic may be okay with not receiving the ball as much as he did last season, but if the Nuggets want to consider themselves championship contenders, they will have to get their All-Star back to playing like an All-Star.

Denver has been winning games and is off to a great start, but they still to find ways to get their best player back into a groove and playing with the same enthusiasm as he did last season.

The Nuggets are off to a 13-5 start and that is without Jokic playing remotely close to what he is capable of.

Look for head coach Michael Malone to find ways to get his starting center going early and for Jokic to become more aggressive in the coming games.

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