The Crypto.com Arena was overflowing with emotion Thursday night, as the Kobe Bryant statue was unveiled before the Los Angeles Lakers (27-26) battled the Denver Nuggets (36-16). They displayed the type of grit and toughness that the Mamba would probably respect but still fell to the defending NBA champions, 114-106.
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham was pleased with the effort and subsequently gave his team an A+ grade “for their competitiveness and the way they played against Denver,” according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. Evidently, there is such a thing as moral victories in the NBA.
That type of comment will only make Ham more polarizing to a fan base that wants to see distinct improvement with only 29 games left to play in the regular season (did win three in a row before this contest). If one wants to stay in keeping with the celebratory tone of the night, however, there are positives to take away from the loss.
Lakers push Nuggets but can’t close
Anthony Davis scored a game-high 32 points on terrific 14-of-27 shooting while also recording nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals. LeBron James also enjoyed a balanced showing with a 25/9/7 line. The two stars helped the Lakers keep pace with the Nuggets in the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 104 with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. ended the suspense, though, combining for a 10-0 scoring run to clinch the road victory.
Resilience is a vitally important quality, one that paid dividends for this squad last year, but losing when James and Davis both have strong showings is concerning. The effectiveness of the supporting cast has been a topic throughout the season, with too many guys either injured or underachieving. Since the trade deadline has now officially passed, that can’t be a concern going forward.
The Lakers must collectively produce, especially in their own building. Trying their best will not warrant any good grades if they are once again scrapping for an NBA Play-In Tournament slot. And it won’t help Darvin Ham during his performance review.