Nuggets 112 - Lakers 105 (end of regulation)
A painful season for Pau Gasol just got worse. JaVale McGee inadvertently hit Gasol in the nose Sunday night at Staples Center, sending the Lakers forward-center to the locker room. Gasol, bleeding profusely, was unable to finish the game.
The Lakers had the same problem, losing a close game to the Denver Nuggets 111-105. After climbing to within three with just 36.2 second left on a Kobe Bryant three-pointer, Dwight Howard blocked Andre Miller's floater.
The loose ball landed right in the lap of Danilo Gallinari who hit a wide-open three-pointer to seal the game. Bryant hit another three to make it interesting but Andre Miller hit a pair of free throws and the Lakers simply ran out of time.
The Lakers shot 46.3% from the field (38-82) while hoisting 30 three-point attempts (making 10). They also got to the line 27 times, making 19 (70.4%).
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 29, with 18 coming in the fourth quarter. Steve Nash had 10 points and 13 assists. Dwight Howard tied a career high with 26 rebounds to go with his 14 points.
Still it wasn't enough despite the Nuggets shooting a lower percentage from the field (43.6%). The Lakers turned the ball over 18 times to Denver's 10.
Despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Nuggets still scored 112 points with eight scorers in double figures. Ty Lawson scored 21, Danilo Gallinari had 20 and JaVale McGee put in 17 off the bench.
The Lakers fall to 15-8; the Nuggets climb to 20-16.
Nuggets 89 - Lakers 83 (end of third quarter)
Just as the first two quarters ended in a run, the Nuggets finished the third on a 6-1 run. The Lakers struggled to hit shots in the period, their shooting percentage dipping to 47.0%
The Nuggets took advantage once again of Lakers turnovers (13-7 for the game) while hitting 47.4% from the field.
Metta World peace led all scorers with 16 while Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee each put in 15 for the Nuggets. Kobe Bryant had 11 points through three. Steve Nash had 10 points and 10 assists.
Lakers 60 - Nuggets 60 (halftime)
Just as the Nuggets closed the first quarter on a run, the Lakers climbed back into the game with a 9-0 run late in the second. Denver's lead had climbed as high as nine before Jordan Hill's jump shot put the Lakers up 60-58.
The Nuggets closed the half with a Kosta Koufos hook shot, leaving enough time for Steve Nash to dish to Dwight Howard in transition for an open three-point look. It didn't fall, dropping Howard's three-point percentage on the season from 50% to 33.3%.
The Lakers shot 56.1% from the field while holding the Nuggets to 46.2%. Denver benefitted from 11 additional field goal attempts, partially due to five additional offensive boards (11-6) and five fewer turnovers (10-5) . . . although those differences were mostly established by the Nuggets in the first quarter.
Metta World Peace and Andre Iguodala led all Scorers with 12 apiece. Sixteen players scored in the game, eight on either side. The Lakers got strong offensive numbers from Pau Gasol (11 points on 5-6 shooting) and Dwight Howard (10 points on 4-5 shooting, along with 13 rebounds).
Nuggets 34- Lakers 26 (end of first quarter)
The Nuggets scored the final six points of the first quarter, extending a two-point lead to eight. Up until that final stretch, both teams kept the game close with nine lead changes and three ties.
Eight different Lakers scored as the team shot an impressive 57.9% from the field, led by six from Metta World Peace.
The Nuggets hit only 44.8% but earned six additional points at the free throw line on eight attempts while the Lakers took just two. Denver also had seven offensive rebounds (Lakers grabbed two).
Andre Iguodala led all scorers with eight points. The Nuggets forced the Lakers into six turnovers without a single miscue of their own.
The Lakers (15-17) will have chance to avenge their recent 126-114 loss to Denver (19-16), hosting the Nuggets on Sunday night at Staples Center. The Nuggets have a deep, athletic roster led by Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari.
The Lakers are 2 1/2 games behind Denver in the standings, making this a crucial game in the Lakers’ efforts to climb to at least eighth in the Western Conference.
After winning five straight games, the Lakers have lost three of four. Dwight Howard is expected to play after tweaking his shoulder on Friday night against the Clippers.
If the Lakers can make sure Corey Brewer doesn't go off for 27 points (including six three-pointers) again, they should have a real chance to take a 2-1 series lead.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs Nuggets.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.