Lakers lacking on defense in 126-114 loss to Denver Nuggets

DENVER – The Lakers soon replaced their festive spirit with sluggish movement as they navigated the Rocky Mountain altitude.

The Lakers soon replaced their nostalgia over Steve Nash restoring stability with a defense so porous that a revamped offense couldn’t absorb it. The Lakers soon replaced a five-game winning streak into a 126-114 loss Wednesday to the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center.

No one epitomized the Lakers’ ineffectiveness and frustration more than Dwight Howard. Struggling all night in matching the Nuggets’ energy, Howard knocked Denver forward Kenneth Faried to the ground on his way to the basket. Officials assessed Howard with a flagrant foul type 2, resulting in an immediate ejection with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter.

It remains to be seen whether the NBA will levy Howard with a fine or a suspension. But Howard’s frustration moments after his ejection while the fans at Pepsi Center jeered at him told the whole story. He finished with only 15 points on 4 of 6 shooting and seven rebounds, while going 4 of 9 from the free throw line in 27 minutes.
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Lakers worried about Nuggets’ speed

Game: Lakers (14-14) vs. Nuggets (15-14)

Where: Denver (Pepsi Center)

Time: 6 p.m. PST

TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet

DENVER — Everything seems calmer for the Lakers now that Steve Nash has returned to the lineup.

The Lakers have a five-game winning streak. They’ve closed out three consecutive games where the outcome wasn’t decided until the final moments, the last two against playoff caliber opponents. The Lakers are back to the .500 mark for only the second time this season.

Still, the Lakers don’t want to get ahead of themselves.

The Nuggets may have just come off a Christmas Day loss to the Clippers, cementing a 7-13 road record. But Denver boats a 8-1 record at Pepsi Center. In those g

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Mike D’Antoni says Kobe Bryant’s MVP chances hinges on Lakers’ record

The instant Kobe Bryant marked Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers star shied away from small talk with his close friend and cut to the chase.

“Show me what you got. Let’s go,” Bryant recalled saying. “If you can’t trash talk with your friends, what kind of relationship is that?”

Metta World Peace mostly guarded Anthony in the Lakers’ 100-94 victory Tuesday over the New York Knicks, making the Knicks star work tirelessly for 34 points. But Bryant’s brief defensive assignment once Metta World Peace fouled out late in the game conjured up images of the league’s two top scorers going after each other.

Even beforehand, early-season debate brewed on who could become the NBA MVP.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni clashed with Anthony for parts of two seasons in New York, but he gave valid reasons on why Anthony remains a good MVP candidate.

“They’re one of the top teams and he’s definitely a big reason why they are there,” D’Antoni said. “So you’d definitely have to talk about him.”

Anthony ranks second in the league in scoring at 28.5 points per game. But who else would D’Antoni choose?

“Durant’s always there. LeBron’s always there,” D’Antoni said. “I think you have to be in the top three or four records. Right now somebody is probably slipping by.”

That would be Bryant, who leads the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game. Wouldn’t D’Antoni favor him?

“If we can get up to where we need to get up to,” D’Antoni said. “But we have to get up there. I don’t think you can put anybody at MVP when you’re below .500. That just doesn’t work. “

The Lakers’ win over New York inched them closer to that goal, standing 14-14 and reaching the .500 mark for only the second time this season.

Bryant, who’s won one regular season MVP award, has insisted indifference to individual accolades. He could’ve secured his third scoring title last season ahead of Durant, of Oklahoma City, but Bryant sat out of the season finale in hopes to rest for the playoffs.

The Lakers star encouraged Anthony last season and during the 2012 London Olympics not to feel guilty about tapping into his scoring instincts. The Knicks star attributes Bryant’s advice as a huge reason for his breakout season. But Bryant’s hardly concerned about the consequences.

“That’s not my problem,” Bryant said with a laugh. “That’s the Eastern Conference. “

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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Kobe Bryant takes over Nike’s Twitter feed

After once bristling over using social media, Kobe Bryant is slowly but surely starting to embrace it.

The latest sign: the Lakers star started tweeting on Nike’s Twitter handle titled @nikebasketball on Christmas Day and for at least a few days beyond.

Bryant first wished his fans a Merry Christmas while posted a picture with his wife, Vanessa, and two daughters, Natalia and Gianna. Bryant promoted his Christmas Day shoes. Bryant posted two pictures showing his ice bath treatment following each game. And after the Lakers’ 100-94 win Tuesday over the New York Knicks, Bryant provided a big picture assessment in 140 characters.

“14-14 not great but we are getting better,” Bryant said. “It’s all about the journey.”

Bryant’s journey into social media has evolved within the past year. This past offseason, Bryant began using a Facebook page mostly to post injury updates and promoting his Nike shoes. During the 2012 London Olympics, Bryant posted frequently about the various events he attended and his assessments on Team USA’s march toward Olympic gold in men’s basketball.

Imposters attempted to create a Twitter account on his behalf twice within the past year, but they immediately were shut down. That probably won’t happen again.

“So yes I’m finally tweeting!!” Bryant wrote. “Mamba out.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Steve Nash directs Lakers to 100-94 win over New York Knicks

As the waning minutes ticked away in a game possibly slipping out of their fingers, Lakers guard Steve Nash gathered his teammates together.

He pointed to his temple and reiterated one simple message.

“Use your head,” said Nash as he tapped onto it.

Not everyone listened to it just then. Lakers center Dwight Howard stood off to the side expressing frustration with an official. But for the second consecutive game since returning a leg injury that sidelined him for the past 24 games, Nash’s calming presence soothed the Lakers enough to secure what many on the team considered its best accomplishment yet.

The Lakers’ 100-94 victory Tuesday over the New York Knicks at Staples Center marked the team’s fifth consecutive win, the third in which the game came down to the final moments. The effort provided respectability to an otherwise dismal 5-9 mark in the Lakers’ 14 consecutive Christmas Day appearances. Nash’s contributions reflected both his numbers (16 points, 11 assists) and on-court presence.

“Steve controlled the game toward the end. It’s invaluable,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “A point guard like him has that respect, a lot of that is credibility he’s built up over the years and he’s good. It puts everything in perspective and calms everyone down and gives you a chance every night.”
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Lakers to start with Darius Morris on Carmelo Anthony

Game: Lakers (13-14) vs. New York Knicks (20-7)
Time: Noon
Channel: Channel 7 (ABC)
Where: Staples Center

A festive atmosphere permeated the Lakers locker room as they awaited their Christmas Day game against the New York Knicks.

Dwight Howard talked with Pau Gasol about his hope that all his teammates clap their knees and make a hissing noise once the Lakers public announcer Lawrence Tanter says Kobe Bryant’s name during starting lineup introductions. Teammates opened up gift bags given by Bryant himself. Of course, the Lakers also seem in the holiday spirit after reeling off four consecutive victories, the latest one a overtime win Saturday over Golden State that coincided with Steve Nash’s return from a prolonged injury.

It remains to be seen whether the Lakers’ holiday spirit will prove as lively once they play New York.

The Lakers have a 4-9 record in their 13 consecutive Christmas Day appearances. The Lakers are also less than two weeks removed from their 116-107 loss Dec. 13 to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. In that game, Carmelo Anthony poured on a team-high 30 points, including 22 in the first quarter. Anthony likely would’ve scored more if not for an ankle injury that sidelined him for most of the second half.

That’s partly why Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni will start second-year player Darius Morris at shooting guard to defend Anthony instead of featuring touted defender Metta World Peace.

“We think we can get up into him and get him help from other people with the way they start,” D’Antoni said. “Later on, they’ll put shooters all over the floor and Metta is going to have to be fresh and ready and guard him one on one more. That’s the thought process. Plus, we won four in a row like this. We don’t want to keep messing around. I can change after a minute if I don’t like it. It’s not a big deal.”
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Facts & figures regarding Lakers’ Christmas Day game against Knicks

Below are a few numbers to feast on before watching the Lakers (13-14) host the New York Knicks (20-7) Christmas Day at Staples Center

*Today’s game will mark the Lakers’ 14th consecutive Christmas Day appearance, a feat that speaks to the team’s NBA marketability. But there’s one reason why the Lakers shouldn’t feel proud of that mark. They’ve only gone 4-9 in that span.

*The Lakers’ common Christmas Day opponents include the Phoenix Suns (six), Detroit Pistons (five), Boston Celtics (four) and Miami Heat (four).

*The Lakers have played on Christmas Day a total of 38 times, second only to the Knicks (20-18). The Lakers are 12-9 all-time at home and 8-9 on the road on Christmas Day games.

*Though both teams have played the most Christmas Day games in NBA history, the Lakers and Knicks enter today’s game having played only one other time on Christmas. The Lakers beat the Knicks 134-126 in 1963, led by Jerry West (47 points) and Elgin Baylor (27 points).

*Kobe Bryant will play in his 15th Christmas Day game, an NBA record. That surpasses the old mark of 13 games set by Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal and Dolph Schayes.

*Bryant’s 349 points ranks second all-time in Christmas Day games behind Oscar Robertson (377). Considering Bryant leads the league in scoring at 29.7 points per game, it’s safe to presume will he eclipse Robertson’s mark today. Bryant also ranks second in assists (81) behind Robertson (145), ranks 4th in steals (15) and is tired for 2nd in 3-point field goals made (11).

*Steve Nash ranks 13th in assists per game (8.4). Dwight Howard ranks 10th in rebounds (15.3), 3rd in blocks (3.5) and third in total blocks (14) on Christmas Day games.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Metta World Peace compares Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony

For someone who may or may not guard Carmelo Anthony when the Lakers host the New York Knicks on Christmas Day, Metta World Peace seemed awfully familiar with the opponent he may or may not defend.

The Lakers’ eccentric forward revealed this when he was asked the simply question on how he would compare Kobe Bryant and Anthony. After all, Bryant leads the NBA in scoring (29.3 points per game) while Anthony falls in second with a 28.3 points per game clip.

“They’re definitely different scorers,” World Peace said. “They both attack, get to the line and both can shoot,” said World Peace, who may start after playing the past two games on the bench to guard Anthony. “Kobe is a little bit more fluid and has more in his arsenal. Kobe definitely has more in his arsenal.”

World Peace then listed all of the varying shots Bryant can take.

“Left, right, head fake, step through, left hand, hook shot, everything,” World Peace said with a smile. “What do you want? He does it all.”

Apparently so.

Bryant’s 47.1 percent shooting mark represents his career high. Bryant has scored at least 30 points in eight consecutive games and 10 of the past 11, while also stringing three 40-point plus performances this season. Meanwhile, Anthony has scored at least 30 points in six of the last eight games and has one 40-point performance.

So what does Bryant have that Anthony lacks?

“Anthony shoots a lot a threes, spot up and quick. He gets off down screens really good. He gets to the basket really well. But Kobe has fades. Kobe has every single thing, man. Come on, like everything. Not everybody have everything. He has everything.”

World Peace then gushed about Bryant’s moves.

“Two dribble shot, three dribble shot, four or five dribble shot, 10 dribble shot. 24 second shot clock shot. No dribble shot. Shoot when I want to shoot shot. He has every shot. Kobe is amazing.”

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Mike D’Antoni noncommittal on who will guard Carmelo Anthony

Metta World Peace seeks therapy from kids
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Mike D’Antoni noncommittal on who will guard Carmelo Anthony

In about 24 hours, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony will enter the Staples Center arena hoping to feast on the Lakers’ defense like a Christmas Day dinner.

How do the Lakers stop the NBA’s second-leading scorer from getting seconds, thirds and then dessert? Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has hinted in recent days that Lakers forward Metta World Peace will resume coming off the bench and only start when he needs to cover an elite defender. But D’Antoni provided about as much clarity on that thought process as a parent explaining a young child if Santa Claus is real.

“I don’t need to tell you guys,” D’Antoni said with a smile. “We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”

Whatever the case, the Lakers will need a much better outing than when they lost to New York, 116-107 Dec. 13 at Madison Square Garden.

Anthony poured 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting in just 23 minutes. He hit three consecutive three-pointers in the first ten minutes. Anthony bulldozed Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard for a two-handed dunk. Anthony made pull-up jumpers and baseline heaves off the catch. Add it all up and Anthony scored 22 first-quarter points. He only slowed down after spraining his ankle early in the third quarter.

He opened the game with 22 first-quarter points. Anthony hit three consecutive three-pointers in the first two minutes. He bulldozed past Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard into the lane for a two-handed dunk.

“Getting him hurt probably helped,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know how you can contain him. If you watch the tape again, a lot of it was him pulling up and doing what he does. If he makes it, you live with it.”

World Peace thrives on defending the top player. But he strongly downplayed whether it’s important he starts in hopes to slow down the Knicks’ superstar.

“I don’t need to,” World Peace said. “We just need to stick with what we have. We have a whole team. We need to change with anything, whether it’s LeBron, Melo or Durant. This is how we start and this is how we stick with it.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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Metta World Peace seeks therapy from kids

Just the other day, Metta World Peace bristled at the idea that the Lakers initially felt consumed with the weighty expectations after assembling a “Super team” roster.

“There’s no pressure,” World Peace. “There’s just stories.”

What stories.

“Stories you write,” World Peace said with a smile.

World Peace just provided another story for the media to write about involving pressure, an issue that apparently has consumed him so much that he talked with children therapists in a video spoof above.

“I have a lot of pressure,” a worried World Peace said. “How do I deal with it?”

One therapist encouraged World Peace to revisit his hobby in digging up Earth worms, even if it entails going outside Staples Center at halftime of a Lakers game. Another insisted World Peace should just squeeze his hands tight before lightly push both knuckles and palms against each other. World Peace sounded eager to perform both exercises.

Perhaps that’s why World Peace insists he’s felt at ease all season.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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