Ball posts triple-double as Lakers defeat Nuggets
LOS ANGELES — Ball movement and a second-quarter implosion doomed the Denver Nuggets in a 127-109 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
Lonzo Ball recorded the second triple-double of his rookie season, and the Lakers rolled at Staples Center.
Ball finished with 11 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds, though he hit just 5 of 13 shots from the floor. Ball had the most rebounds of any NBA rookie guard since January 2001, when Steve Francis grabbed 17.
“It’s what we’ve been saying the whole time, even when he’s not scoring the ball, he has rebounds, assists and steals,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Sixteen is a lot, (but) I’m not totally shocked by it. He’s really good down there on the glass.”
Julius Randle scored a season-high 24 points, and Brook Lopez added 21 for the Lakers (7-10).
Los Angeles guard Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points, Kyle Kuzma had 17 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope chipped in 15. Brandon Ingram had 13 points as seven Lakers reached double figures in scoring.
The balanced effort was no coincidence, said Randle, who converted 11 of 18 shots from the floor and also collected seven rebounds and five assists.
“We work on it, so I guess it just kind of kicked in,” said Randle, regarding the Lakers sharing the ball, which resulted in a season-high 36 assists to 18 for the Nuggets. “We definitely worked on it, we moved the ball, and it’s contagious.”
Gary Harris led the Nuggets (9-7) with 20 points, while Wilson Chandler scored 17. Denver also had seven players score at least 10 points apiece.
The Nuggets unraveled in the second quarter. An 18-4 burst to open the period boosted the Lakers to a 50-30 cushion after a bucket by Randle with 7:08 remaining.
With 6:20 left in the quarter and the Nuggets trailing by 18, Denver center Nikola Jokic and head coach Mike Malone were ejected after a confrontation with official Rodney Mott. Malone charged onto the court and had to be restrained by one of his assistant coaches after he believed Jokic was fouled on a play under the basket.
Jokic followed him to the locker room after delivering some choice words to Mott. Jokic finished with six points and six rebounds in 12 minutes.
“I don’t want to get into that,” Malone said regarding his ejection. “Give them credit. ... Tonight they scored 70 points in the paint, which is way too many.”
Jokic followed a similar script.
“I don’t want to comment. I just want to apologize to the Denver Nuggets,” Jokic said.
In addition, Denver lost forward Paul Millsap before the end of the first half with a left wrist sprain. Millsap had five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
The Lakers, who led by as much as 24 and held a 70-48 advantage at the break, never allowed the Nuggets to get any closer than 13 in the second half.
“I think we were just very focused going out there and we knew we had to right the ship, so we all came out with the right mentality,” Lopez said. “The ball movement was fantastic and made stuff easy on the offensive end.”
Harris said a weak effort by Denver on defense also helped Los Angeles.
“They got too many easy points in the paint, and we knew that was going to be the key to the game,” said Harris, who made 7 of 13 attempts from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. “Just got to do better next time defensively.”
NOTES: Lakers coach Luke Walton said he continues to counsel PG Lonzo Ball about his play and ongoing distractions, including a brewing feud between President Donald Trump and Lonzo’s father, LaVar. “(Lonzo’s) got more on his plate than I can ever imagine anyone having, especially at his age,” Walton said. ... Walton said the Lakers have a target date for the return of F Larry Nance Jr. (fractured left hand) but refused to divulge it. Nance has missed nine games. ... The Nuggets have won five consecutive season series against the Lakers. The teams meet again Dec. 2 at Denver. ... Denver visits the Sacramento Kings on Monday. ... Los Angeles hosts the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.