Lakers guard Kobe Bryant waits for play to resume against the Nuggets during… (Chris Schneider / Associated…)
Reporting from Denver -- A new year brought some unpleasant change for the Lakers.
Their defense slackened and they couldn't hold a lead in the final minutes.
One constant remained: Kobe Bryant continued to miss.
The star shooting guard endured a second consecutive subpar game Sunday at the Pepsi Center during the Lakers' 99-90 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Bryant slogged his way past the 28,000-point barrier in his career, scoring 16 points on six-for-28 shooting. He made only one of eight three-point attempts and has made an abysmal 12 of 46 shots overall in his last two games.
Bryant left the locker room without speaking to reporters.
Coach Mike Brown shouldered part of the blame for a loss that dropped the Lakers (3-3) back to .500, saying he needed to do a better job of recognizing what's working for his team. Big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 38 points, but neither scored after Gasol made a driving layup to give the Lakers an 86-85 lead with 4 minutes 3 seconds left.
"I coached a bad game and our players did not play a good game," Brown said. "There's no way around it."
The Lakers repeatedly took jump shots that went astray, leading to easy transition baskets as Denver scored the game's final 11 points after trailing, 90-88. The Nuggets' surge included a breakaway dunk by Danilo Gallinari, who had missed a layup in the final seconds Saturday at Staples Center during the Lakers' three-point victory.
"Layup after layup after layup is what happened," Bynum said. "Why? We didn't get back."
Bynum had a second consecutive sturdy showing since returning from his season-opening suspension, logging a double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds despite making only four of 10 free throws. He criticized himself for "being a little tired and not getting down the court" in time to get the ball more. He also had five fouls in 28 minutes.
The Lakers made a concerted effort to go to Gasol early in the fourth quarter, and he rewarded them with three baskets on the way to finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Then they started hoisting jumpers, most of them missing.
"We definitely were effective in the post and you definitely want to go to the most effective things at the end of the game to win," Gasol said.
Bryant made three of 10 shots in the final quarter and the Lakers, who had overcome deficits of 11 and nine points earlier in the game, did not have another push left in them.
Lakers point guard Derek Fisher said a stagnant offense was culpable for the fade.
"Tonight we put Kobe in some tough spots where he had to take some long shots just to kind of get a shot up to the rim," Fisher said. "We left a lot of guys out there with the shot clock running down without much going on."
It was almost certainly no consolation to Bryant that he became the sixth NBA player to score 28,000 points and the youngest at 33 years 131 days old. Next on the list: Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant's former teammate who retired with 28,596 points.
Performances like the one Bryant turned in Sunday could make him take longer to get there.
"He's an aggressive player and I'm sure he'll shoot better the next game," Gasol said. "Nothing to make a big deal out of."