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Lakers’ loss to Nuggets is a real eye-opener

Denver Nuggets Nene gets a pass off in front of Los Angeles Lakers Ron Artest, left, and Pau Gasol at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, Sunday, April 3, 2011. Derek Fisher helps on defense. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers, 95-90.
Wally S Kalij | Los Angeles Times | MCT
Denver Nuggets Nene gets a pass off in front of Los Angeles Lakers Ron Artest, left,
and Pau Gasol at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, Sunday, April 3, 2011.

By Mike Bresnahan
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES _ Strange, unsettling day for the Lakers, who haven’t had many lately.

They bored their fans for almost three hours, finally turned it up in the last minute, and finished with two limping starters and a 95-90 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Such events had been rare in these parts, the Lakers having recently thrilled their followers with a triple-overtime victory and a tough-guy mind-set that led to a healthy ovation for Matt Barnes at Staples Center when he entered Sunday’s game.

But the Lakers were out-shoved by the scrappy new-look Nuggets, and Lamar Odom was again the target of a last-minute failure to box out.

Andrew Bynum didn’t finish the game, held out for precautionary reasons after aggravating a sore right knee that was surgically repaired last July. Pau Gasol finished the game after tweaking his left knee but planned to have an MRI exam Monday.

Nothing major is expected, but both big men shuffled stiffly around the locker room afterward. It was an apt metaphor for the end of the Lakers’ nine-game winning streak.

Kobe Bryant shot poorly, scoring 28 points on 10-for-27 shooting, and the Lakers lost a home game for the first time since Feb. 3. They also slipped 2 games behind San Antonio after losing for only the second time in 19 games since the All-Star break.

First, the injuries, always so important to note this time of the year.

Bynum left quietly with 7 minutes 15 seconds to play after Odom fell into him after missing a shot.

“I’m all right,” said Bynum, who didn’t re-enter the game despite telling Coach Phil Jackson he could play. “I think they were a little concerned.”

Bynum finished with eight points and 16 rebounds.

Gasol’s injury was more pronounced after a hard but clean foul by Denver center Nene early in the third quarter.

Gasol stayed down for a minute after his right knee bent back during an off-balance landing. He shot a free throw, remained on the court for a minute and went to the locker room. He re-entered the game a few minutes later and finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“It allowed me to keep playing so hopefully it will be nothing,” Gasol said. “There’s some swelling in there.”

The Lakers’ next game is Tuesday against Utah.

Compared to the chaos that had gone on around here lately, Sunday’s game had a different feel to it.

There were no flagrant fouls, no hard feelings and no partially clothed women charging down the stairs toward the court.

Lakers fans were even more quiet than usual. It made sense. The Lakers trailed by eight with 2:12 to play.

But they pulled to within two afterOdom’s three-pointer with 15 seconds left.

Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler even gave the Lakers a chance, making the first free-throw attempt and missing the second, but Odomfailed to box out Kenyon Martin, who pushed him under the basket and tipped in the ball as it popped off of the rim with 11 seconds left.

It was bad symmetry for the Lakers. Their last home loss came after Odom failed to box out San Antonio forward Antonio McDyess on a last-second tip-in.

Odom wasn’t happy at all when the game ended. He punched the ball from one end of the court to the other, the ball caroming hard off a camera posted on top of the basket.

“I was so mad at myself because the same thing happened against San Antonio,” Odom said.

Jackson wasn’t thrilled for a different reason.

“That’s a foul,” he said. “(Martin) just steamrolled Lamar underneath but it wasn’t called, and that’s the way the game was being played today.”

The Lakers were sloppy all afternoon, committing 18 turnovers and acting sleepy with the 12:30 start time.

“Any game that’s before 3 in the afternoon is difficult for us,” Jackson said. “We just have guys that don’t seem to respond well in the morning or early afternoon.”

Translation: 10 of the Lakers are 30 or older.

Old, young or otherwise, they simply weren’t as good as Denver.



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