Updated: February 26, 2013, 1:52 AM ET

1. Nuggets Rule The Break Against Lakers

By Danny Chau | ESPN.com/TrueHoop Network

It all begins with a defensive stop. The rebound is secured, but it's not long before the ball makes its way to the frontcourt, with a wing -- maybe Corey Brewer or Wilson Chandler -- already leaked out in position. The backcourt player takes a dribble, stalling just long enough for the player upcourt to receive a lead pass in perfect stride. The lone defender doesn't stand a chance. It ends in two points, often in spectacular fashion.

The Denver Nuggets' transition game was worthy of a number of superlatives, but perhaps the most apt descriptor would be "rote." Fast breaks in the first half occurred like clockwork, turning even the most spectacular displays of athleticism into a mundane routine. The disparity in fast-break points -- Denver's 33 to the Los Angeles Lakers' 3 -- was a game-defining stat, but the magic number that all but sealed the Nuggets' 119-108 victory over the Lakers was 78.

Kobe Bryant
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsKobe Bryant was hot, but the Nuggets' dominance on the break and in the paint impressed most.

The Nuggets had 78 points in the paint, tying a season high previously reached against the Charlotte Bobcats on Dec. 22. Denver had imposed its style of play for much of the game, and the Lakers seemed content to exacerbate the problem by throwing the ball away on a multitude of bad passes.

The Lakers' 15 turnovers turned into 22 points on the other end. Chandler, starting for Danilo Gallinari who was out with a bruised left thigh, was the main beneficiary of the Lakers' poor rotations and lack of discipline keeping up with Denver's wings. Chandler finished with 23 points on 10-for-18 shooting, his second-highest scoring output this season.

It was a team effort from the Nuggets, which shouldn't come as a surprise. When they're at their best (which usually, if not only, occurs at home) the team transforms the game into a track and field exhibition, taking full advantage their roster's depth and explosiveness. By the end of the first half, the Nuggets had 16 assists and nine players on pace for double figures.

It's a stark difference from the Lakers, who have relied on Kobe Bryant's soloistic brilliance more and more recently with the team's constant health issues. Coming off Sunday's perfect 14-point fourth quarter performance against the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant started off cold. In fact, Kobe's first shot of the game was an airball. He shot 1-of-7 in the first quarter before eventually catching fire.

But after averaging 39 points on 63.6 percent shooting in the past two Lakers victories, Kobe's 29 points on 52.2 percent shooting looked pedestrian. However, with the Lakers facing an increasingly precarious future, Kobe's numbers don't matter as much as making adjustments and putting in a consistent effort on the defensive end. It's a little late in the season to be having identity issues on either end of the floor, yet here the Lakers are.

While the game put a damper on the Lakers' winning ways as of late, it might be what points the Nuggets in the right direction. After losing four of their past six games, getting a win that affirms the team's fast and furious style of play could be the spearhead of a final push. It's no secret that the Nuggets would love to nab the fourth seed in the West. The Nuggets are sterling 24-3 at home, but a paltry 12-19 on the road, which makes home-court advantage a legitimate game-changer come playoff time.

The questions that remain for Denver don't involve identity. The team may not have a true figurehead on the court, but they will go as far and as fast as Ty Lawson (22 points and 8 assists) and Iguodala (14 points, 12 assists) take them.

After an early-season malaise, Lawson has reemerged at the midseason point, becoming exactly what the Nuggets needed to run their balanced counterattack on the league. It's only one game, against a team that may or may not make the playoffs, but the Nuggets came away with a hallmark victory, an emblem for what the team is capable of.

Their game is fast, insistent, faceless. It's a machine that converts an opponent's mistakes into efficient production. And it runs and runs, like clockwork.

Danny Chau's work appears on Hardwood Paroxysm. Follow him @dannychau.

Dimes past: Feb. 1-2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8-9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 17 | 20 | 21 | 24

Danny Chau (@dannychau) is an intern for Grantland.

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