Below are five things to take away from the Lakers’ 134-126 loss Friday to the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center:
1. The Lakers are still awful on defense. Even after quitting the previous night against the Clippers, they hardly showed much difference on the defensive end against Denver. They still look terrible. Denver posted a season-high 42 points in the first quarter and a season-high 77 points in the first half. The Nuggets’ entire starting lineup cracked double figures. Denver shot 63.6 percent from the field.
Rinse and repeat.
The Lakers do an awfully good job repeating cliches about needing to play grittier, showing more communication on defense and playing for a full 48 minutes. Rarely do the Lakers actually apply this. So even if the Lakers suddenly brought their offense back to life, the same issues will persist if they don’t sharpen up defensively. Blame the circumstances on the second night of a back-to-back and adjusting to the high altitude. But the Lakers have failed time and time again that they can’t adjust.
2. Pau Gasol tweaked his left ankle, but it doesn’t appear serious. As if the Lakers could absorb more injury news. Gasol left the locker room to get his left ankle taped, but he eventually played through it, scoring an efficient 21 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Gasol hasn’t brought much defensively. But in the past five games, Gasol has averaged 23.6 points on 56.3 percent shooting in the past five games, suggesting the strained right groin has fully healed.
3. Ryan Kelly had a breakout game. In what serve as some extra footage on his free agency resume tape, Kelly posted 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds. He had already scored a career-high 26 points this season. But Kelly provided a bounce-back performance after going through a month-long shooting slump. That development isn’t surprising. But here’s something that is: Kelly picked up an flagrant foul on Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, something that links him with former Laker Dwight Howard.
4. Jordan Farmar had a bounce-back game. After having a rare off performance against the Clippers consisting of four points on 1 of 5 shooting, Farmar scored 24 points on a 4-of-5 clip while dishing off four assists. Could that propel him into the starting lineup? That remains to be seen. But despite Kendall Marshall’s 13 assists, he still had only posted eight points on a 3-of-8 clip, continuing a two-week trend where he hasn’t shot above 50 percent.
5. Xavier Henry made some progress with his health. His 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and three assists marks his third consecutive game he has posted double digits. But what’s more impressive entailed Henry’s playing time (31 minutes). That suggests he feels more comfortable with his right knee after sitting out for a near two-month stretch.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org