The Nuggets lost a game they desperately needed to win, falling on the road to the Lakers to drop to the 10-seed and make things extremely difficult for them to finish the season.

Wilson Chandler had a team-high 26 points, but the rest of the team looked out of sorts most of the night outside of the third quarter.

Julius Randle had 26 points and 13 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, and Kyle Kuzma had 26 points, including five 3-pointers, to pick up their 31st win on the season.

The game started with loud boos for the Nuggets players, who have drawn the ire of Lakers fan by doing things like winning games and playing good basketball. Jamal Murray had eight of the Nuggets first 12 points, going 3 for 4 with his only miss coming on a 3-pointer that rattled out of the rim. Jokic picked up his second foul on a bad offensive screen, and sat with about five minutes left in the quarter.

The Lakers ended the quarter on a 23-8 run, taking advantage of the Nuggets missing shots and poor execution on defense to enjoy a long run. Malone tried calling timeout, but the Nuggets turned the ball over when Mason Plumlee tried driving to the rim. The scoreboard read Lakers 35 – Nuggets 22 after the first quarter, which was less than ideal for Denver.

Jokic came into the game with the reserves to start the second quarter, and the offense started humming, cutting the lead down to nine points. Jokic was called for another offensive foul, on another illegal screen call, and he headed back to the bench. Barton continued to miss shots, looking a little out of sync in another road game. Their defense picked up, with a sweet block by Plumlee on Zubac, and the Nuggets responded to Jokic returning to the bench with a 7-0 run that forced Luke Walton to call timeout for his team.

The refs bailed out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope after the timeout, rewarding the veteran after a blatant flop to draw an offensive foul on Murray. The defense forced another turnover, and Murray got to the free throw line after driving to the rim in transition. A turnover on a lost ball by Randle, and then Wilson Chandler tied up the game with a 3-pointer, 43 all, and the game was officially on. Millsap was called for a cheap foul battling for a rebound with KCP, but Chandler answered the call again on offense. Jamal Murray gave the Nuggets the lead with seven seconds left with a pair of free throws, but the Nuggets gave up yet another end-of-quarter bucket and they were down by one point at halftime, 48-47.

The key to the Nuggets getting back into the game was a combination of the Lakers committing turnovers, launching 3-pointers that missed, the Nuggets rebounding those misses, and the Nuggets getting into the paint to score. Will Barton and Gary Harris went 3 for 15 in the first half, with Barton missing 7 of 8, including a couple really ugly attempts. The Lakers put up 25 3-point attempts in the first half, making seven, and only had 18 points in the paint, with a majority of those coming in the first quarter.

The Nuggets offense came out of the locker room clicking, with Wilson Chandler taking using his strength to gain an advantage over the defenders the Lakers would send his way. Gary Harris had a couple shots finally drop in, and Jokic got into a groove. They were able to swing the game in their favor with a string of stops and baskets, opening up an 11-point lead with three minutes left in the quarter.

That’s when Malone brought in his reserves, making a smart decision to give his starters a chance to catch their breath in anticipation of a close fourth quarter. The Lakers did end the quarter on a 10-2 run, attacking the basket instead of settling for 3-pointers, but the Nuggets had the lead after three, 82-77.

The Nuggets started the fourth quarter with some constipated offense, with Barton continuing to struggle. Malone had to pull Barton for Millsap with about eight minutes left – there really was no reason to keep Barton on the court any longer – and Lonzo Ball broke the ice on his 3-point shot, giving the Lakers a 90-89 lead.

Kyle Kuzma started feeling it, and proceeded to chuck everything through the hoop, scoring eight points in a row for the Lakers to get them to the 100 point mark with five minutes remaining. Millsap wasn’t effective guarding him, so Malone went to Will Barton, who promptly made a terrible play to give the ball back to the Lakers. Gary Harris and Chandler each had 3-pointers, but the Lakers scored two baskets in a row and they went up by seven points with 97 seconds left in the game.

Barton had another turnover after a timeout, unable to reel in a pass from Jokic while cutting to the rim. Murray was taken down by a double team, and Randle jammed home a dunk after the steal, and the Nuggets had to resort to fouling to give themselves a shot down the final minute. The Lakers missed some free throws, but Murray had another turnover, and that was pretty much all she wrote.

Box Score

Three thoughts

The Nuggets failed to execute on defense. On a night where one of the obvious keys to the game was stopping Julius Randle from getting offensive rebounds – seven. On a night where one of the obvious keys to the game was not letting Kyle Kuzma get open off screens for 3-pointers – five.

Who is to blame? The coaching staff, for not identifying these key issues? The players, for not executing? Everyone? It’s happened all season long, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to be fixed.

Remember the loss to New Orleans last season? While the Portland loss was the one that really prevented the Nuggets from making the postseason, the loss the game before to New Orleans was the difference maker. It was the point where I realized that the Nuggets weren’t a postseason team, because that was a game that a playoff team wins. Tonight was the same result, just a different season. This is a game a playoff team wins, and the Nuggets got down by 13 after the first quarter, and blew a double-digit third quarter lead.

I’d love to be proven wrong and see the Nuggets rally for a playoff spot. Please don’t question my level of support for the Nuggets, but I’m not going to lie and say that I’m confident they’ll bounce back. They’ve lost too many games they needed to win this season, and they’re in a really tough spot with their remaining games and current record.

Make good choices. There was a lot of trash talk before this game, and most of that is my fault (you can find me on Twitter by clicking here). If you’re a Lakers fan and you want to remind me how many championships that franchise has won, feel free to. If you want to politely ask me to, in the common tongue, “Catch this L,” I will gladly do so. I love trash talking! It’s one of my favorite things about sports. Will it sting? You bet it will, because I’m a competitive person, and I hate losing.

But at the end of the day, I turn off my television, put my phone down, and go to sleep, just like everyone else. Does the outcome of the Nuggets game personally affect me? No. I encourage everyone else to humbly accept what’s happened, and to treat others with respect. Trash talk is fine, but don’t cross any lines by personally attacking other people, or using crude language. If you wouldn’t say what you write to that person’s face, don’t click send. If you would say what you write to that person’s face, be a better person.

Good luck to the Lakers for the rest of the season! I hope that none of your players get hurt, and you enjoy watching them play out the remainder of the 82 games in the regular season. I look forward to the next time these two teams play, and hope that we can continue to enjoy the game of basketball as played at the professional level in the NBA. Drive safe, smile at those you encounter, and look for opportunities to express gratitude in life.

Until next time, adieu.

Oh, and this is a great photo. Jokic got cooked.