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Five things to take from Lakers' 93-89 win in Denver

Lakers31. An important road win against a conference playoff contender. Let's start with the biggest positive of the night: a quality win on the road against a conference opponent. So it wasn't pretty, but the Lakers still went on the road to beat the Nuggets, 93-89. When they want to know whether you won or lost, they ask how many, not how well you played. The Nuggets (15-8) have proven to be a formidable opponent since the departure of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks as well as Kenyon Martin (now of the Clippers) and J.R. Smith to China. Just as impressive, the Lakers (14-9) overcame some controversial calls, or non-calls, to earn the victory and move up in the Western Conference standings.

2. Broken record: The Lakers need to execute better on offense. Once again, the Lakers continued to have breakdowns in running their offensive sets, often resulting in poor-quality possessions that ended with rushed shots at the end of the 24-second clock. And with Andrew Bynum running hot, how can he end the game with only 13 shots? The Lakers continually failed to get him the ball when he had great post position. A couple of scenarios in the game included the Lakers' two most veteran players -- guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant -- failing to get Bynum the ball when he had established himself on the block. Bryant ended up driving wildly into the lane and hoisting an off-balance shot on more than one occasion.

3. Broken record II: The Lakers need to improve their transition defense. Too many times the Nuggets were able to get down the court for easy layups. And that included big men Nene and Timofey Mozgov as well as the speedy Ty Lawson and other perimeter players. The Nuggets are primarily a young and athletic team, and they're not the only one in the West that will torch teams in transition if defenses aren't paying attention. Think Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Warriors, etc.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Nuggets

4. Broken record III: Kobe Bryant needs to know when to defer to the big men. Bynum made 10 of 13 shots for 22 points while collecting 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol was five of 10 from the field for 13 points while pulling down 17 rebounds. It became obvious as the game unfolded that the Lakers had the advantage on the front line. When your two big men are shooting better than 65% combined, they need to take more than 23 shots in the game.

5. Andrew Goudelock continues to impress. The rookie guard made six of 10 shots, including one of three from three-point range, for 13 points, his fourth double-digit effort in the last five games. When Steve Blake returns to the lineup, the Lakers' backcourt will have more weapons and depth, plus the ability to give more rest to Fisher and Bryant.

RELATED:

Lakers avoid stumble at start of road trip

GM Mitch Kupchak remains positive despite road woes

Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum lead the L.A. All-Star contingent

--Dan Loumena

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives the baseline for a reverse layup in front of the rim against the Nuggets in the second half Friday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press

Five things to watch in Lakers-Cavaliers matchup

Mike Brown

Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (8-4) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-5) on Friday evening at Staples Center:

1. How will the emotions surrounding this game tie into the Lakers' performance? For Lakers Coach Mike Brown, this involves facing the team he coached for five seasons before being let go. Brown hasn't sounded bitter about that experience, but it's widely understood that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert fired him after the 2009-10 season in hopes to assuage LeBron James into staying in Cleveland. Lakers forward Pau Gasol, meanwhile, may actually want to thank Gilbert. Regardless of what NBA Commissioner David Stern claims, Gilbert no doubt at least had some influence in convincing Stern to nix the Lakers' trade that would've landed them current Clippers guard Chris Paul. And for the Laker fans themselves, this backdrop might spark more energy than usual, considering how much Paul's presence would've helped the team's dynamic thus far. 

2. How do the Lakers adjust to Steve Blake's likely absence? Although the Lakers are listing the team's reserve point guard as day-to-day, it sounds unlikely Blake will be able to suit up against Cleveland because of fractured cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum. Yes, the Lakers' point guard has remained the team's weak link, even when healthy. But through 13 games, Blake has shown vast improvement from last season in his scoring (7.3 points this season, 4 ppg last season) and shooting percentage (40.2%, 35.9%), has run the offense with energy and purpose, and has remained a more viable option at defending the pick and roll than Derek Fisher.

Instead, Fisher will receive heavy minutes, which is something neither Brown nor Fisher ideally want. Rookie guard Darius Morris will also likely receive more playing time. He showed in the Lakers' 92-89 overtime victory Wednesday over the Utah Jazz a mix of good and bad. His made both of his shots, scored four points, added two assists and displayed  playmaking skills and aggressiveness. His two turnovers pointed to his tendency to do too much. Add those variables into defending a talented rookie point guard in Kyrie Irving, and the Lakers could experience some trouble. 

3. Kobe Bryant should have another big night. Bryant's numbers have been downright ridiculous. In his last six games, Bryant has averaged 36.7 points, scored at least 30 in six of those seven, and has shot 50.7%. Big-picture, it's fair to ask how Bryant changes his play considering Brown wants to scale his minutes from 36 to around 33 or 34, and that his teammates presumably will improve more as the season progresses. But in the short term, Bryant will likely have a field day against Anthony Parker. It might be a good idea for Sparks forward Candace Parker -- Anthony's sister -- to stay home for this one. 

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Five things Darius Morris needs for a successful season

Darius MorrisThis is the 13th post in a series focusing on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2011-12 season (assuming there is one, of course).

1. Be a playmaker. This should become Morris' biggest strength considering he led the Big Ten Conference season in assists (6.7) last season. It also would help him distinguish himself. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will immediately like him if he passes them the ball.  

2. Improve outside shooting. Morris has spent most of his off-season improving his three-point shot since he averaged only 25% during his sophomore season at Michigan. Tyrell Jamerson, a former Nevada Las Veags guard who trained Morris this summer, says he mostly worked on shooting jumpers instead of set shots because it better simulates defenders trying to stop them. Regardless of Morris' approach, it's crucial that he develops at least a decent shot. 

Since the Lakers lacked a strong outside shooter last season, Morris would immediately earn more playing time if he shows a good outside shot. Also, it would force defenses to actually play honest against him since most might first look to limit his passing abilities. 

3. Add speed/athleticism. Morris doesn't bring much quickness, but he needs to add energy to a veteran team. That would help in leading the Lakers in transition and stopping those quick guards they never seem to be able to defend.

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