There is little point in sugar-coating Saturday night's Lakers loss in Denver. One should consider that Denver is a difficult place to play, but the Nuggets were down three big men and the Lakers had a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 115-100 loss to the Nuggets.
1. This one seemed to sting the players and coaches more than other losses. Luke Walton looked as frustrated as he’s been all season (though similar to how I saw him several times last season). Two players who are typically very accessible, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., declined to speak postgame.
Beyond that, the postgame locker room was generally tense. This is going to be a tough month for the Lakers. It might not be as bad as last December’s 2-14 campaign, but they’ll be facing teams that are a lot better than Denver several times.
2. The Lakers turnovers were concentrated in the fourth quarter, and especially in that four-minute span during which the Nuggets shut them out and went on a 15-0 run.
“We had like three or four travels where guys literally just caught the ball and took two steps before dribbling,” Walton said. “Which is absolutely unacceptable. That’s just being lazy. Then a lot of them came from us trying to be too aggressive. They obviously had a game plan of packing the paint and then when we drove it was three, four guys and they’re reaching, which is fine but we gotta be under control and realize what they’re doing to make the extra pass. I thought in the second half we did not do a good job, mainly the starters did not do a good job of making the other pass, trying to make their teammates better in that third quarter.”
3. The plus/minus ratings weren’t pretty for the starters. All of them were in the negative. Brandon Ingram was at minus-26, Larry Nance Jr. at minus-14, Brook Lopez at minus-4, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at minus-13 and Lonzo Ball at minus-15.
4. Walton rewards players with the opportunity to close games. Usually those who get punished for their earlier mistakes are the younger players. On Saturday night most of the younger players did see fourth-quarter playing time, but Lopez and Caldwell-Pope didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter.
5. The ever-positive Walton did his best to take a measured approach postgame.
“You’re aware of the fact that you have young players out there,” Walton said. “They need to learn and go through tough times. You don’t start throwing chairs and beating them down on everything. They played hard for us tonight for most of the game. Obviously the end of the fourth was probably as bad as we could have played. The frustration’s there. Accept it. You’re aware of what’s going on. Keep working and getting better.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli