After another loss to the Nuggets, the Lakers are ready for revenge
The Lakers have a villain, and he is a 21-year-old point guard for the Denver Nuggets.
For the second time in a row that the Lakers have played in Denver, Jamal Murray incurred their wrath.
On Dec. 2, it came after Murray dribbled the ball around Lonzo Ball as the clock expired on their double-digit win over the Lakers.
“We all remembered it,” Ball said. “It’s a punk move. But like I said, we’re not going to get into it. He can do whatever he’s going to do.”
Friday night, the issue was something Murray either did or said that the Lakers were reticent to specifically address.
“It is what it is, that’s the type of player he is,” Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma said. “But we’ve got another shot at it Tuesday, so looking forward to it.”
The Lakers entered Friday night’s game in Denver hoping for revenge, but didn’t get it. The Nuggets beat the Lakers, 125-116, with the help of Murray, who scored eight points and had a steal in the game’s final four minutes. Brook Lopez led the Lakers for the second game in a row with 29 points. Murray led the Nuggets with 22 points and eight assists.
None of Walton’s frustrations at Murray materialized until late in the game. For the first 21/2 quarters, the Lakers’ frustrations were more of their own making. They committed too many turnovers and found themselves down 13 points.
In the third quarter, that changed. Suddenly, they were the ones securing steals and making chase-down plays. A 12-2 run in the third quarter helped the Lakers establish that they weren’t going quietly.
Late in the third quarter, Ball ran into the path of a Nuggets pass, stole the ball, and got it to Julius Randle. Randle went up and under to score, cutting Denver’s lead to two. On the Lakers’ next possession, Kuzma missed a three-pointer, but then chased down his own rebound for a contested layup.
That hard-won score gave the Lakers a one-point lead, their first since the first quarter.
The Lakers would go up by as many as four points in the fourth quarter before Murray sparked the Nug-gets to the win.
He stole the ball from Ball with less than a minute remaining, and that’s when the fireworks began.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knocked Murray into the first row of seats, then later insisted it wasn’t personal.
Isaiah Thomas followed Murray almost all the way to the Nuggets’ bench, reacting to something Murray said or did, then later said he didn’t hear Murray at all.
Ball appeared as engaged, as ready to take on an opponent, as he has about anyone all season.
“He’s going to do the circus stuff,” said Ball, who scored 15 points. “I’m not feeding into it.”
Murray pleaded innocence and said he wasn’t talking to anyone.
“I can’t control what the other team’s gonna feel,” Murray said. “I’m just gonna go out there and hoop and whoever takes it to heart and takes their losses salty, I can’t do anything about that.”
“I think it is OK to play with emotion and some guys thrive in that situation,” said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. “And Jamal is able to play with emotion, but I never want it to border on the line of being disrespectful to your opponent.”
Whether Murray meant it or not, the Lakers felt disrespected. In less than a week they’ll have another chance at revenge.
Said Ball: “Can’t wait.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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