From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: They can’t win ‘em all, right? Guess not. Sunday afternoon, the early-start bug again bit the Lakers, who were sluggish offensively from the get-go, and over the second half couldn’t adequately match the intensity of the visiting Nuggets. Give Denver plenty of credit, though. The Nuggets came into Staples against a red-hot team, and earned a legitimate win. “I told the team we beat ourselves, but it’s not quite the story,” Phil Jackson said after the game. “I think Denver is very aggressive. They created the 20 turnovers that really hurt us over the course of the ballgame.”
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Nobody on the Lakers likes to lose, but at the same time, having ripped off 17 wins in 18 tries, including nine in a row entering Sunday’s game against the Nuggets at Staples, the freak out quotient was appropriately low inside the locker room despite L.A.’s failure to make it 18 of 19. Sometimes the other team wins. Still, there’s an interesting interplay at work. Intellectually, players know they won’t win every game, so does it become even a little easier to accept a loss after a long winning streak? Because, for lack of a better term, you’re due? No, not so much. “In my opinion, each game is kind of its own life. It’s own existence. When you win nine games or 10 games in a row, or however many games, they’re all independent of each other,” said Derek Fisher. “Obviously you start to get some momentum and you start feeling good about how you’re playing, but winning a game two days ago has no bearing on winning or losing a game two days later.”
From Kalen, Roundball Mining Co.: After Kenyon Martin put back a missed free-throw by Nene to clinch the Nuggets 95-90 victory of the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, emotion spilled out of the gritty power forward in the form of expletives aimed at the silicone-infused celebrities strung along the court-side seats at Staples Center. For Nuggets fans, this was a moment when we vicariously said what we’ve wanted to for a really long time, and thanks to Kenyon Martin, we got that opportunity without having to deal with the repercussions. Many will point and say this is the best win of the year, but I disagree; this was the most telling win of the year, and what it told us is that the Denver Nuggets don’t even have to play to the best of their abilities in order to beat the two-time defending NBA Champion L.A. Lakers. Coming into Sunday’s game the Lakers were by far the hottest team in the league, having only lost once in their last 18 match-ups. You’d think playing on their home-floor with the best closer in the league, best coach in the league (in terms of championships) and best front-line in the league that the Nuggets would have to play nearly flawless in order to win, but that was hardly the case.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: We knew there’d come a day like this. We didn’t know exactly when, but deep down, we knew this Lakers team wouldn’t stay locked in forever. Eventually they’d show up to work dragging ass and in need of some Five Hour Energy Drink. In fact, what’s most striking about today’s game, a 90 to 95 loss to a Denver Nuggets team on a serious roll of its own, isn’t that the Lakers failed to close or that for most of the afternoon they lacked verve and attentiveness. It’s that performances like this have become the exception, rather than the rule. In years past, it was standard operating procedure for the Lakers to mail it in come late March and early April. But their 17-1 rampage after the break had imbued Lakerdom with a nearly unflinching optimism. Today’s a reminder that the occasional flop is inevitable. Clunkers happen. Perspective is a healthy thing.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: In early April last year, the Lakers also lost a game to the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers did not take that failure lightly. Andrew Bynum did not play, which surprised no one at the time. But Kobe Bryant sat out that game because of swelling in right knee that was telling him his season should be ending, not beginning. Without Bryant, Pau Gasol was singled out by Phil Jackson for late-game failures: “He exposed the ball.” And consummate teammates Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher fumbled the final chance at victory each trying to call a play for himself. Jackson also said after that loss to Denver a year ago: “We haven’t had a stretch of games when we’ve played consistently well.” As in, all season.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Making his way toward the player’s lounge, Lakers forward Lamar Odom stopped in midstep. The images of Kenyon Martin’s put-back of a missed free throw over Odom with 11 seconds left that cemented the Lakers’ 95-90 loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets couldn’t escape him. “Second time this year, right?” Odom said in disbelief. “What the …” This nightmare happened exactly two months ago when the San Antonio Spurs secured a one-point victory after forward Antonio McDyess boxed out Odom and tipped in Tim Duncan’s missed 11-foot, fadeaway jumper before time expired. Even if the sequences seemed similar, Odom reacted differently. Following the Lakers’ loss to San Antonio, Odom bounced the basketball once, held onto it and appeared in a reflective state of mind. Once the Lakers’ loss to Denver became official, Odom punched the ball from one end of the court to the other, the ball hitting off a camera posted on top of the basket.
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: The basketball was launched 60 feet, landed on a TV camera atop the basket, and bounced hard toward the crowd, but Lamar Odom was still upset. He failed to box out Kenyon Martin, allowing the Denver Nuggets’ forward to slip in for a tip-in with 11 seconds left in the Lakers’ 95-90 loss Sunday. “That’s twice this year,” Odom muttered to a reporter as he ambled across the locker room 30 minutes later. Indeed, Odom allowed San Antonio forward Antonio McDyess to score with a similarly late tip-in two months ago. The Spurs mobbed McDyess, celebrating perhaps their biggest victory this season.
From Mike McGraw, Daily Harold: The MVP race is down to two candidates. Derrick Rose has one serious competitor to fend off in the final six games of the regular season. It’s not Orlando center Dwight Howard and certainly shouldn’t be Miami’s LeBron James. The one player with a legitimate chance to beat out Rose is an old favorite, Kobe Bryant. Bryant seemed to fall out of the picture early in the season based on a perception the two-time defending champs were underachieving. The Lakers spent much of the season trailing San Antonio and Dallas in the Western Conference standings. But since the all-star break, the Lakers have gone 17-2, even with Sunday’s loss to Denver. They’ve got an outside chance of catching the Spurs for the overall top seed.