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Lakers have a missed opportunity in 126-113 loss to Denver Nuggets

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Lakers Coach Phil Jackson isn't going to criticize the guards' defensive performance in a 126-113 loss Friday to the Denver Nuggets, despite allowing guard Chauncey Billups to shoot a career-high 39 points on 12 of 20 shooting.

Jackson declined to lament the fact the Nuggets pulled off their second win against the Lakers this season, despite playing without Carmelo Anthony, the league's leading scorer, because of a sprained left ankle.

Jackson refused to look ahead to Saturday's game against Portland, either, instead insisting he only wanted to talk about the Denver game. The exception is he wasn't about to offer much criticism. 

"I'm not going to berate my team," Jackson said.

That doesn't take away the sting away, however. After all, there was a reason very few were present in the locker room after this one.  The Lakers (38-13) suffered their second loss to Denver (34-16) this season, a loss more significant because the Nuggets trail the Lakers by only 3.5 games for first place in the Western Conference standings. Though both teams face each other two more times this season, the Nuggets have a cushion with tie-breaking scenarios for home-court advantage, something that certainly wasn't lost on either team. 

"That’s something that we just can’t allow," said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who finished with 17 points on eight of 17 shooting and 17 rebounds. "If we want to be the same team we were last year as far as being champions, we need to tighten up."

One immediate concern involves beating above .500 teams. The Lakers are only 17-12 against those teams, and recently came off an eight-game trip where they finished 1-3 against such opponents. And it doesn't get any easier. The Lakers' next remaining three games before the All-Star break are against Portland, San Antonio and Utah, all playoff caliber teams fighting for seeding in the Western Conference. 

And if Denver serves as any indication, you can bet in Vegas that the upcoming opponents see their matchup against the Lakers a must-win game both for confidence and seeding purposes. 

"I don’t think there’s any question that after last year we have a little extra focus on what the Lakers are doing every night," Denver Coach George Karl said. "We might be doing a little extra studying of how to beat the best teams in the west. Of course, the Lakers would be on that top of that list."

It turns out that extra scouting paid off. And it mainly tapped into the Lakers' inability to stop their hot shooting. Denver shot 57.1% from the field and 68.2% from downtown. They kept the Lakers on their toes in a game that featured nine lead changes and six ties. And their instance offense overshadowed the play of Kobe Bryant, who scored 33 points on 11 of 22 shooting despite having a left ankle sprain.

"I could still be effective and play," Bryant said. "Obviously, I'm not as explosive as I was, but I can still command double teams, things like that."

But when Bryant collected his fourth foul with 4:16 remaining, the game started going downhill. That's when Billups scored four consecutive three-pointers over an ineffective Sasha Vujacic, capping off 21 third-quarter points and falling just two shy of a Lakers opponent record for points in a quarter, originally set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1966.  The hot shooting didn't stop. Reserve J.R. Smith scored 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, which featured Denver enjoying a double-digit lead through most of that time. 

The Lakers would like to quickly move on and forget about this loss. Even though they will have to with a game Saturday at Portland, they can't forget the lessons learned after losing to playoff-type opponents.  

"All the teams are gunning for us, even the ones we beat," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "They’re hiding and triyng to come up with a plan to beat us. We have to be aware of that."

Against Denver, the Lakers weren't.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wonders why no foul was called on a drive against Denver during Friday night's game. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times

 
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The Triangle Offense Matrix Transposition

0 assists = times 0 + 3
4 points = times 3

0-14 points given up to your man = for each point deduct the same
25-35 = divide box score total by 3 and add 6 (round up)

Career highs by opposing player = the square of that number (round down)

Bench points allowed = the fourth root of that number (round up unless a perfect square)

Lamar Odum +/- of -20 = 1/2 times 3 divided by 10 for the true #

I don't like Bynum's game anymore. What happened to blocking shots? And Fisher? Come on. How about some passion?


Wes

I am still like... mourning?

Ouch.

None of the Cavs débacles bugged me nearly half as much as these loss against the always evil Thuggets, oh... no.

I was prepared.

I was maybe the only one in chat not surprised A BIT by Chauncey's performance (I completely expected it), and I was clearly tracing the risks of facing a team, the only team actually in the whole NBA, that I have fears about.

It's not really that we were facing a minus Melo team.

Actually with Melo in we would have faced less mattering mismatches, and we could have probably fronted them with a better disposition of mind (Melo in means lots of less ball played by his teammates; that would have affected the developing of the game and not necessarily in Denver's favour.).

But the point is Denver has the kind of team on court that has a valid answer to every of our players.

In time of good shape, we still superior.

But that isn't current case.

We needed way higher speed and reactivity to face the always movable Thuggets. We had it only in the first half.. Then it decreased, along with the focusing.

we actually had some good moments. But we couldn't sustain them with apt scoring.

I don't really see the point in claiming we should have guarded Billups better. Billups has those shots. It was not a matter of him: it was a matter of not letting others have good post points.

It was a matter of a sharper and more fluid offense from our players.
But to have it (at time we saw we could have exploited the rush of attacks from Denver with steals and fastbreaks: it worked, but when our physical condition decreased, that could be no longer used as tactic. That is something that will be solved again with a good shape. So no real drama to be made out of it, please...) we should have been simply more physically shaped.

We are not.

That is something only time and training can solve.

And it will.

Still, I am angry at the way we messed up a game that we could have treasured better.

Bench FAILED.

And bench is a key factor.

In times of no perfect shape, you gotta rely on bench. That saves these kind of losses. Nothing else.

It hurts cos Denver has the new certainties now. It hurts cos we risk to lose home advantage for playoffs against them and THAT is a problem.

I am really not surprised by this game.

Not that it hurts less.

I can console myself admiring ONCE more the inhuman God Of BBall. My oh my... what Kobe did this past night was simply a symphony in sport terms.

Amazing.

Now let me do like Jack Nicholson did on court: standing up and congratulate Denver's coach. You gotta praise opponents and be classy even when it hurts.

Denver always puts its real pace off in the second half btw. Also that was not a mystery.

I guess PJ tried adjustaments that did not work due to players uneffective play.

Strategically, I agree with the game he had in mind.

It's not like the sky fell down on us.

I am sure all of our team is aware the road is long, winding, difficult.

But I'll state it again: when we will be in shape, and out of major injuries, we will see what we are all about.

If we can't stay healthy though, there's no turning table possible.

As simply as that.

Patience is the virtue of the strongest.

Let's see what the punks in Portland will put up against us tonight.

Back to my snowboarding downloader terapy.

later ;)

We are 17 - 12 against teams over .500. What about trading that stat for teams above .600? What are we then? Do I want to know?

I am worried. We have no swagger. Then again, we are a scrappy team, that has found its way to the finals for two years running. WE ARE, TROLL MAN, THE CHAMPIONS.

GOOOOooooOOOO LAKERS !!!!

Good morning? Bah, humbug. What's good about it?

Can't remember waking up at 5 in the morning, and finding over 50 fresh posts spread out over three threads since the game ended. Laker Nation is on fire and it's not because Kobe's shoes are "HOT."

"I'm not going to berate my team," says the coach. Good. Two reasons why: (1) If they have any pride, they're berating themselves worse than anything PJ could say to them. (2) The coach himself was the architect for much of the disaster. Both the game plan and the rotations contributed to the absolute and total failure of the Lakers' effort.

That said, the cliche'd post-game comments of Gasol and Odom are like fingernails streaking down a chalk board. Gasol: "That’s something that we just can’t allow." Then, don't allow it, Mr. Kwame Hands. Odom: "All the teams are gunning for us, even the ones we beat. They’re hiding and tryng to come up with a plan to beat us. We have to be aware of that." Then be aware of that. Like you weren't before the game, LO?

Chauncey Billups has been in the NBA for 12 years. Think there's no film on the guy to study? Give me a break. This Lakers team has gotten progressively worse as the season has progressed. Their cushy home schedule at the start lulled them asleep. Don't say they're tired from the long road trip. They didn't exactly start that out with a bang, did they? They're saving it for the 2nd half of the season? Please. There are certain regular season games that are statement games. You can't roll over and struggle against teams like Cleveland, Boston, and Denver. Can't win every game? There are certain games that you simply have to win.

Which brings us to the Rose Garden. The Blazers are a high energy, fast moving team. They, too, are a tough match-up for the Lakers. But so little effort and intelligence spilled out onto the Staples Center floor Friday night, maybe there's enough left in the tank for this second game of back-to-backs. Sure, the Rose Garden is a thorn in the Lakers' side. Maybe some Lakers pride can bloom on the floor in Portland tonight. Maybe the Nugget's beat down will snap the Lakers out of their haze. If it doesn't, don't make too many early plans for another celebration at the Coliseum in June.

Correction: There weren't 50 posts when I woke up. There were 142.

I'm beginning to doubt if this Lakers team has the heart to win the championship this year. We can't seem to beat these 'tough teams'. It seems every player knows we need to toughen up, but come game time, they tend to forget.

Unless these Lakers play with heart, add up another L, when we face the Blazers tmro. I'm pretty darn sure we will lose tmro.

WAKE UP LAKERS!!!! WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes Phil Jackson is a great coach, yes he has 9 rings ... but holy pi$$ what's he thinking in the Denver game leaving Fish on Billups (Beetlejuice from Howard Stern) in the 1st quarter? And what is he thinking having worthless Sasha in the game with 3 minutes to go in the 4th? Jackson's stubbornness cost us an embarrassing beatdown last nite.

Lakers defensive problem against Nuggets was their lack of hard close out on perimeter shooters. Lakers waved their hands and play cursory defense instead of aggressively challenging perimeter field goal attempts.

Since this blog is committed to blaming some one for every loss the culprits against the Nuggets were:

1) Kobe Bryant.

O assists is the key stat, and lack of perimeter defense.

Mamba lovers does Kobe have to play defense when he's hurt?
Maybe he should rest.

No defense and no assists is hurts the team.

2) D Fish.

O assists, Chauncey Billups, Ty Lawson, JR Smith scored at will from the perimeter.

Fish and Bryant played the most minutes at guard so they are the most responsible.

Lakers had very little ball movement in the second half.
Almost all the assists in the second half came from bench players.

Sasha did not lose this game. Yes, he missed open looks but hustled on the perimeter.

Farmar didn't lose the game either, just in case folks want to blame him too.

As I mentioned on the chat last night, I believe I have found the secret to beating Denver...have Fish guard Kobe...that way, Kobe will have a career night (81+) every time.

Seriously, we've got trouble...right here in Laker City. This team is starting to look and act...just like its coach. Heyyyyyy, what's the problemmmmm? Frank, roll me another one, then send Sasha in for Kobe...I like his aura tonight.

Seems like every time we started playing well and building a nice lead, Phil yanked whoever was hot and put in random subs as though he was getting secret signals from his Navajo dream-catcher. Yo, Phil, was this your sacrificial offering to the basketball Anasazi, or what? Whateva.

Seems like Phil is drifting off into the cumulus...and the team's following him.

"I'm not going to berate my team," Jackson said.

but i will let Pau "jellyFISH" Gasol and Fisher to berate Kobe Bryant (my line as PJ impersonator)

@CornerJ, was it my imagination or did PJ have Drew in there with 4 Subs, none of whom were named Odom. That was the strangest lineup, and of course that group didn't even go inside.

It is more difficult playing 5 against 8. The refs swallowed their whistles on three consecutive trips where Kobe was fouled which culminated in Kobe being called for a foul and then pulled from the floor. While it is true that we shouldn't let the refs dictate the game that was a real momentum changer in a tight game.

Don't get too woried, I'm sure the N.B.A. will follow its usual post-season script.

Let's make it 10 in a row at home Blazers! We don't need Roy to beat these chumps! Go Blazers!!!!

Ohh chill out! The Thuggets had EVERYthing to play for as did Cleveland. To these teams, the Lakers are what they want to be WOrld Champions. Even the Nets want to though their record doesn't seem to back that up, haha. The Lakes will be just fine. Regular season matchups don't mean crap. Especially when players are injured and especially because There is nothing really "on the line" except "seedings" and home court advantage which is not really as much an advantage when a series goes a minimum of 4 games. Lebron will beat his chest and do his little "chicken neck moving mouthing angry trash talk after I just made a play look at me! I'm King "No Ring" James and I only win meaningless games but when the Playoffs start I'm always on the bench looking up at some other team holding the trophy." The Nuggets getting 39 points from Chauncey on all those 3's was something that in NO way will chauncey be able to do consistently in a best 0f seven series. So just "oooh" and Ahhh" but it's not time to panic till the playoffs begin. Oh and wht is UP with Jackson not bringin\g Fisher off the bench at this stage in his career. Fish deserves some playing time but is no longer effective as a starter at his age especially on defense where he gets shredded night after night by the Tony Parkers and Chauncey Billups' He can't cover pick and roll anymore and its just time. We need to find out THIS YEAR whom our starting PG will be now and in the future and Farmar and Brown deserve a chance to see what they can do.


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