The Los Angeles Lakers are looking more and more like the team that will challenge the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. The Lakers offense was firing on all cylinders during the team's 122-103 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, indicative of head coach Mike D'Antoni's impact on the team.
Behind a three-point shooting barrage and a trouncing on the glass, the Lakers move to 8-8 on the season and 7-4 at home. Denver drops to 8-9 on the season as questions of its inconsistency and team makeup continue to mount.
L.A. finished 17-of-33 from the three-point line, and withstood a late charge to win the shootout game between the two high-scoring opponents. The Nuggets were also out-rebounded by a 46-38 margin, constantly worrying about Dwight Howard on the glass.
The win helps move the Lakers into a good rhythm as they await Steve Nash's return. It is also helping to prove that D'Antoni was the right hire—at least that's the case for now.
Denver continues to struggle with its bigger lineup. Guards Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala finished a combined 7-of-21 from the field, and Danilo Gallinari led the way with 19 points.
Players of the Game: Lakers C Dwight Howard, F Antawn Jamison and G Jodie Meeks
It's simply too hard to pick one Laker for this game. All three had a substantial impact on the game. Meeks matched a career high with seven three-pointers, the beneficiary of the new "shoot-first, ask questions later" lifestyle now acceptable in L.A. He finished with 21 points in just 17 minutes.
Jamison led the Lakers in scoring with 33 points, shooting 5-of-10 from three and having a flashback to his glory days in the league. He was on fire all night, and clearly comfortable in his new role off the bench.
As for Howard, I'm not sure about the headband look, but he's cleaning up the glass and slamming it home better than ever. He finished with 28 points and 20 rebounds, and harassed the Nuggets all night. Howard is playing great right now, and one of the big reasons L.A. isn't under .500.
Up Next for the Nuggets
Denver will try to establish some consistency on Monday night at home against the Toronto Raptors. Dwane Casey's team has plenty of young talent to make this a dangerous game for the Nuggets, and they'll have three days to prepare for Kyle Lowry and the rest of the Raptor attack.
Up Next for the Lakers
The path to redemption continues on Sunday night, as Howard gets his first look at the team that helped make him a superstar. That's right, the Orlando Magic are coming to Los Angeles, complete with the draft picks and young talent that made it OK to send Howard to the West Coast.
In a matchup of the 2009 NBA Finals, the Lakers will look to continue to establish some cohesiveness as they await the return of Steve Nash and keep perfecting Mike D'Antoni's offense.