On Friday the Lakers lost to the Nuggets 126-113. It was the most points the Lakers have given up all season. The Nuggets are a really dangerous team. They were playing without Carmelo Anthony and his league-leading 29.7 ppg and they still handled the defending champs. They have the offensive power to match the Lakers and the toughness on defense to disrupt them.
On offense they can attack from the inside or outside. Nene is stronger than Pau Gasol and quicker than Andrew Bynum. He was a very efficient six for 10 for 14 points. On the outside, J.R. Smith, Aaron Afflalo and Chauncey Billups are great shooters. They also exploited the Lakers lack of speed. They had 36 fastbreak points compared to just nine for the Lakers.
On defense, they display the type of toughness the Celtics did a couple years ago. Kenyon Martin is never afraid to get physical and neither is Chris Andersen. The Birdman (though not sporting his Mohawk - apparently he couldn't find hair product in LA...) grabbed 15 rebounds and had two blocks off the bench. He alters a lot of shots and plays great help defense when guards head to the rim.
All of these things contributed to the Nuggets win but the biggest reason they won was Chauncey Billups played out of his mind. The guy had a career-high 39 points including 21 (!) in the third quarter. The Lakers were up 68-59 into the third quarter but then Billups hit six of his next seven shots including five three-pointers in a row. It's not as if he was getting wide open looks either. Derek Fisher was in his face and he was still knocking them down. Now I know what it feels like for other fans when Bryant gets hot like that.The Nuggets have won the first two games against the Lakers this season in pretty convincing fashion. The Lakers will get another crack at them on February 28 in Los Angeles.