A steady stream of Nuggets fans walked toward the exit starting at about midway through the third quarter. There was no suspense for those who remained watching the game.
The Nuggets dominated the Lakers on Tuesday night, winning 117-85. The Lakers got outrebounded 60-39 and took 35 three-pointers, making only five of them.
“I mean listen, you’re five for 35, you ain’t gonna win no games like that,” LeBron James said. “It’s that simple.”
James scored 14 points on five-of-15 shooting, two of his points coming in the 12 minutes he played in the second half as the Nuggets swarmed him. Kyle Kuzma led all scorers with 21 points, 12 of them in the second half as he tried to help the Lakers claw their way back.
Denver was led by sprightly point guard Jamal Murray and forward Paul Millsap, both of whom had 20 points. Millsap’s 20 all came in the first three quarters.
And worst of all, the Lakers saw another injury to a point guard. Lonzo Ball left the game late in the second quarter with a left ankle sprain. The Lakers only trailed by six points when Ball first left the game. He returned for 2:24 in the second half before Lakers coach Luke Walton pulled him.
“The way he was moving out there, it just didn’t feel right to leave him out on the court,” Walton said. “So we got him out quickly.”
Ball insisted after the game that he could have continued playing. Although the Lakers called him “da ytoday,” he was defiant in his postgame interview.
“I’m playing Thursday,” Ball said.
The Lakers’ poor shooting started early and remained consistent throughout the game. They made one of eight three-point attempts in the first quarter and two of seven in the second. Their free-throw shooting was a struggle too – in the first quarter, the Lakers made only five of 10 free throws.
Michael Beasley saw his first significant first-half minutes of the season, entering the game before Josh Hart did. Beasley came into the game late in the first quarter and played 13 minutes overall.
Despite their offensive problems, the Lakers stayed with Denver. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a three at the first-quarter buzzer to cut the Nuggets' lead to four. They trailed by eight at halftime. At the break, they only had four turnovers, solving one issue that has tormented them recently.
“I thought we did a nice job in the first half of, our priority was keeping them off the foul line and not turning the ball over,” Walton said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t make any shots, and then I think we gave in a little bit to some fatigue and to the game in that second half.”
But Denver opened the second half with two quick three-pointers by center Nikola Jokic, stretching the Nuggets’ lead to 14.
“I think we kind of let not hitting shots affect us,” Kuzma said. “It’s all kind of fine and dandy when we’re hitting shots and everybody’s in a rhythm, but to be a winning team we can’t think like that. We have to, regardless of whatever it is, still bring that energy.”
With the loss, the Lakers fell to 11-9 and have lost five games in a row in Denver. They will head home for six days and three games in that span.