The best image to come out of Tuesday night was of Isaiah Thomas’ expression when he realized he’d blown by Nuggets center Nikola Jokic for a layup.
Thomas enjoyed talking about that play after the game.
“He’s too big to stay in front of,” Thomas said. “I just tried to use my quickness and attack downhill. He guessed wrong.”
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 112-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
1. Lonzo Ball almost notched a double-double without reaching double figures in points. Ball had trouble scoring, making only two of 11 shots from the field, but he was solid for the Lakers everywhere else. He finished with nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals, two blocked shots and four turnovers in 40 minutes. When he finally scored (Ball missed his first seven shots), it was at a critical moment. He gave the Lakers the lead for good, 90-89, with a three-pointer. “I just know in crunch time you gotta do what you can to help your team win,” Ball said. Lakers coach Luke Walton said he liked most of Ball’s shots, but he was quick to point out the guard’s other statistics when asked about Ball’s shot selection. Ball led the team with a plus-18 in the plus-minus category.
2. There weren’t many theatrics involving Jamal Murray and the Lakers. He did his usual showboating and talking, but he tends to do it more when his team is winning. There was some action, though, between two big men. Julius Randle and Jokic tangled near the end of the game. Here’s why: “He was coming down flailing, flopping his arms and stuff,” Randle said. “That’s fine. That’s his game. But when you hook my arm and try to pull my shoulder out of place, I don’t like that.”
3. Kyle Kuzma’s status might be in jeopardy for Wednesday’s game at Golden State. Kuzma injured his right ankle while attempting a layup at the end of the third quarter. He had an X-ray after the game that did not show any fractures, but he had a very pronounced limp when he left the post-game locker room. The Lakers are calling him a game-time decision.
4. Walton liked what the Lakers did defensively Tuesday night. He did not like it Sunday, despite a double-digit win over the Cleveland Cavaliers (and most of his problems with how the Lakers played defensively came in garbage time). Here’s what he had to say about the Lakers’ defense Tuesday: “That is why I love when we play defense. We couldn’t make a shot. We weren’t playing our game. We were shooting too many 3’s. … We had a lead at halftime because of the way we were defending. I told them I loved the grit that we played with tonight, especially in that fourth quarter getting those stops that we hadn’t gotten in the two times they beat us this year.”
5. The Lakers probably aren’t going to make the playoffs, and they probably aren’t going to finish .500, but the fact that both of those things are even remotely possible shows how far they’ve come from the last four seasons. This win was the Lakers’ 31st of the season. They just need 10 more to break even.