I was not confident about how well the Lakers would play vs. the Nuggets on Wednesday night. As I wrote in my game preview, I was hopeful they’d play hard and be attentive in their approach, but the circumstances of the game made it so I would not count on that happening.
When the Lakers fell behind early, mostly due to mental errors and the Nuggets looking like the fresher and more determined team, I thought “this is sort of what I expected” and said as much on twitter. Look, here’s the receipts:
A funny thing happened right after I tweeted that, though. The sequence I described in my first tweet put the Nuggets up 13 and inspired Monte Morris to chirp at LeBron as both teams walked to their respective benches for a timeout. LeBron, shoulders slumped, looked at Morris and almost seemed resolved to absorb whatever words were thrown his way and continue on.
And then, you could see the switch flip. Bron turned his head, said something back, and proceeded to walk back towards Morris, only to be cut off by a referee.
After returning from the timeout, the Lakers proceeded to outscore the Nuggets 29-10 to close out the half. Fueled mostly by hustle plays from Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, the Lakers fought back and brought a level of fight and determination it had lacked in the games first 15 minutes.
After the halftime break, the Lakers pushed their lead to 11 and promptly engaged their cruise control again. Denver, as they’re want to do, pushed through the crack in the door and made a game of it. A wonderful back and forth battle occurred, with both teams forsaking whatever “last game before the all-star break” mindset they might have had coming in to instead try to win the damn game.
Which is really what made this win so satisfying. When the Nuggets came back from 4-points down in the final minute to force an overtime on their home court, it would have been easy for them to carry over the momentum and send the Lakers home with a loss. Instead, the Lakers clamped down defensively, held Denver to 5 points in the OT, and pulled out a much needed 120-116 victory.
Not necessarily for the standings, but for the boost mentally and emotionally after what has been a grueling couple of weeks in the wake of Kobe passing away — not to mention the taxing nature of playing nearly 60 games at the level this team has while getting the opponents’ best effort each night.
So, here the Lakers sit. 41-12 heading into a much needed break. Hopefully they can come back recharged and ready to make that final push towards the playoffs.