The Los Angeles Lakers (17-6) returned to Staples Center for the first time since January 18th. After a long 7 game road trip, where they went a very respectable 5-2, the Lakers were facing the hot Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets started the season slow, but were coming on strong going 6-1 in their last 7 games prior to meeting the Lakers. In addition to winning games, the Nuggets were riding a hot player in Nikola Jokic. The Joker has been getting MVP buzz and deservedly so. He came into this game averaging 27 ppg, 12 rpg and 9 apg. Over his last 10 games his rebounds and assists stayed about the same, but his scoring average was 29.1 ppg! Everything about this game screamed TRAP for the Lakers. First home game after a long trip, streaking opponent with an en fuego MVP caliber player leading them. This was the Nuggets game to win, right?
STAR OF THE GAME
So, the short answer to that question I posed above is ya. It was the Nuggets game to win, until the Lakers decided to play how the Lakers normally play. While the first half belonged to the visiting Nuggets the second half was all Lakers. I mean ALL Lakers. Nuggets only scored 17 and 18 points in the 3rd and final quarter respectively. The third quarter was where the tide began to turn for the Lakers. Who led them in that third quarter? Dennis Schroder did. He had 9 points and 3 assists in that pivotal 3rd quarter to lead his team in both categories. Schroder and Talen Horton-Tucker provided all the energy the Lakers needed to wake up out of their first half funk and deliver the W for the LAL.
Anthony Davis finished the game with 13 points, and 9 rebounds in 33 minutes of action. Ad is a bit of a mystery. There is no doubting his talent. He is a phenomenal player with a skillset few in the Association possess. Yet. sometimes, he plays what can only be described as “disinterested basketball”. Sometimes it happens in spurts, he might take a possession off then come back with a quick move and a thunderous dunk. I mean, every player in the Association takes some possessions off. But, the concern is that sometimes those funks last longer than most think they should. LeBron James is a generational type player who will retire at some point… I assume! When that happens the face of the Lakers storied franchise will be Anthony Davis. I’m not sure he is ready to take on that mantle and all it represents. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to do that this season, or likely next. But, in time AD is going to have to find that same passion that drove Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LBJ and others to greatness. Right now, he is good, he’s a star, but he is not a superstar.
In the same way you could call LeBron James the Star of every game he plays in, and the MVP of just about every season he has ever played in, we could call Talen Horton-Tucker the surprise contributor. Not a surprise because we don’t expect it from him, he’s so good and been so consistent that this is now expected of him, but the surprise is how he does it. He may be one of the best finishers in the NBA already. When he drives to the hoop he does so with abandon and purpose. Add some twisty turns in the mix and you have a combination that is virtually unstoppable. He is that good and guess what? This may surprise you, so feel free to look it up. Fact check me! Tonight, THT played in his 25th NBA game. Ya, that’s it. He is 20 years old and has only played in 25 total NBA games.
Vs. Detroit Pistons, Saturday, February 6th
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Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!