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Dan Woike: Lakers frustrated they can't beat Nuggets, and the problem is getting worse

Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

Last spring, there was almost a universal Lakers' voice bemoaning a lack of continuity, their deadline-assembled roster no match for the bulldozing Denver Nuggets, who made every big shot and got every big stop during a Western Conference finals sweep.

The Lakers' offseason, in no small part, was driven by the chance to respond — the vow to essentially "run it back" with small changes around the margins.

Yet those inside the locker room acknowledged a harsh, yet obvious, truth, following the Lakers' 124-114 loss to Denver. They're not close to beating the team that ousted them a year ago. And, if you really examine it, the gap might actually be widening.

Following Saturday's game, in which the Lakers were outscored 16-4 in the final four minutes, players publicly and privately expressed frustration with their late performance against the Nuggets. Multiple players pointed to how Denver changed their offensive tendencies, like they did in earlier meetings this season and last year in the playoffs, and how the Lakers still didn't have an organized late-game plan for the defending champions.

"They do the same thing. And they beat us with it every time," Anthony Davis said postgame when asked if he felt the gap was closing. "So yes, we're getting closer as far as the first, I guess, 42 minutes or you can even say 44 minutes, right? And then that last four minutes is just them getting to what they get to. And they make us pay for our mistakes, like I said.

"Granted, they made tough shots. But they get to it every time and you know it's coming."

 

In three games this season against the Lakers, the Nuggets have dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 153.1 points per 100 possessions. It's the highest fourth-quarter efficiency for the Nuggets against any opponent this season.

Denver's net rating (the difference between points scored and allowed per 100 possessions) is a whopping 25.7 in fourth quarters against the Lakers this season.

"They've got so many different weapons out there that can hurt you," coach Darvin Ham said after Saturday's loss. "They make you play a full possession throughout the clock of defense. And again, once that shot goes up, then the battle really, really starts. So, you know, you just gotta keep throwing stuff at them."

None of it has worked in crunch time.

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