After Tuesday night's disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, this sure was a refreshing win over the hated Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets scored a season high 126 points against the Lakers and ran away with the game at the end of the third and into the fourth quarter.
I get that it's easy to get down on this Nuggets team after the "effort" the Nuggets put forth on Christmas Day against the Clips. The Nuggets absolutely should have played better against a beatable Clippers squad - who, by the way, is now #1 in the Western Conference - but a thorough drubbing of the Lakers at home the day after goes a long way towards washing that bad taste out of our collective mouths.
Tonight, the Nuggets used their home court advantage to their fullest, running down a clearly tired, worn down Lakers squad. The Nuggets transition offense was on full display, with the Nuggets posting a modest 14 fast break points but 58 total points in the paint (outscoring the Lakers in the same area by 20). Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant's ultimately meaningless 40 point game simply could not compete with Ty Lawson and Corey Brewer's energy tonight.
Speaking of which... Corey Brewer deserves special mention. Tonight, everything was falling for Corey Brewer. Somehow, playing against the Lakers seems to raise his game to another level. He posted 27 points on 9-16 off the bench, making 6 of 7 three pointers to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal and no turnovers. His length frustrated Kobe and Metta World Peace all night, and he had several critical long bombs when the Nuggets needed them most. He played the passing lanes and was a disruptive presence all night, hounding Kobe, Nash and World Peace around the perimeter.
The Nuggets were largely able to contain Jodie Meeks, who slaughtered the Nuggets during their last outing with a barrage of 3 pointers. He was held to just 7 quiet points and 4 assists. World Peace was similarly disrupted, contributing just 10 points, with both Meeks and Peace shooting a combined 6-24 from the field and 8 fouls (as Peace fouled out).
A giant lump of coal goes to Dwight Howard, who, after posting a mediocre line of 12 points and 7 boards, fouled Faried with a hammerblow to the face as he drove the lane in the third quarter. Howard's dirty play earned him a rightful ejection from the game, and the Lakers' interior defense was as porous as swiss cheese thereafter.
Kenneth Faried, for his part, had an excellent night, up to and after Howard's ejection. The Manimal's energy just a night removed from another beatdown in the Staples Center was infectious. Faried posted 21 points on 9-13 shooting with 15 rebounds, outplaying the Lakers' sad frontcourt for most of the night. In the first quarter, he came out with 11 points and nine rebounds, setting the tone for the Nuggets' play. The effect of Faried's always-on energy cannot be overstated.
It was great to see the Nuggets' outside shot falling tonight. The Nuggets shot 12-22 from 3 (54.5%), which forcing the Lakers to close out on the Nuggets all night. Fatigue from Tuesday afternoon's game against the Knicks and continued excellent shooting caused the tired legs of the Lakers to stumble late against the Nuggets, and they simply struggled to reach Brewer and Danilo Gallinari. Hopefully, the Nuggets can use this Lakers win as a blueprint on freeing up good shots from the perimeter. When the Nuggets get the 3 ball rolling, they are a freight train.
The Nuggets get a break for just one short day before taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas on Friday and then on to the Memphis Grizzlies to close out 2012 on Saturday. For now, we should relish in an excellent win over a Lakers squad riding a (former) 5 game winning streak, hope the Nuggets rest up, and be ready to welcome this team home in January 2013.