The Nuggets dropped their third preseason game, 124-115, to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night. Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell exploded for 33 points in 31 minutes to lead his team to a win in the exhibition played in Ontario, California.
Russell and fellow starter Lou Williams combined for 58 points on 34 field goal attempts, pouring in a combined eight 3-pointers as well. Nick Young chipped in 14 points as well in a starting role for the Lakers as Luol Deng rests during the preseason.
Jusuf Nurkic continued his strong preseason, racking up a double-double with 21 points and 16 rebounds, leading the Nuggets in both categories on the evening. Danilo Gallinari was the next leading scorer, finishing with 19 points, most of which came on 11 made free throw attempts.
The game was tied after three quarters, but Williams made some big baskets down the stretch, scoring 15 straight for the Lakers to help pull the game away late. The Lakers closed the game with D’Angelo Russell, Williams, Young, Julius Randle and Tarik Black, while the Nuggets went with their standard preseason closing lineup with the exception of Nurkic for Jarnell Stokes, who fouled out. The Nuggets youths were unable to stop the Lakers run or counter, and the game was over with a few minutes remaining.
Grades and Notes
Emmanuel Mudiay: D-
Mudiay had 13 points and seven assists, but with 3 turnovers, an 0-4 clunker on 3-point attempts, and allowing your counterpart to go off for 33 points? We expect Mudiay to have struggles with his perimeter jumper, but he should still be able to defend. He didn’t have that tonight (and yes, it’s just preseason) and that’s discouraging.
Will Barton: B+
Barton had a few highlight plays, but also had four turnovers and some silly reach-in fouls. Michael Malone will probably live with the 0-3 night on 3-point attempts, especially when Barton gave good effort on defense, but the fouls and turnovers are killers. Barton finished with three blocks, including a sweet one recovering off of a screen on Williams.
Danilo Gallinari: A
Gallo brought it tonight, knocking down 3-pointers and getting 12 free throw attempts. He was a force on offense, and looked like the scoring threat from last season. Did finish with only three rebounds, which has long been a problem for him despite his height. It’s understandable though, because he spent a lot of time on the court with Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic.
Kenneth Faried: A-
Faried had a very Faried type of night - a few plays that were head scratchers, but he rebounded well, moved his feet well on defense, and finished a few possessions with buckets in the paint. He could have come out bothered about not getting starts earlier in preseason, but he didn’t, and that was big in my opinion.
Jusuf Nurkic: A+
Nurkic has been the star of preseason through three games so far. He got extra minutes tonight after Jarnell Stokes fouled out of the game, and took advantage. Nurkic had some beautiful moves in the post, and, like Gallinari, attempted 12 free throws. The Lakers bigs couldn’t stop him, and this was a great game by Nurkic. He even stayed out of foul trouble - way to #provethemwrong.
Jamal Murray: B
Murray seemed to play calmer than he had in the earlier preseason games, although he did looked overwhelmed on defense at times. Going against Jose Calderon and Jordan Clarkson isn’t a very fair argument for a young guard that hasn’t even seen a single minute of play in the regular season. Murray will have to do a better job avoiding leaving his feet for passes (looks like another season of typing that over and over) but his perimeter jumper will keep him on the court this season. Please avoid talking about Murray taking over the starting point guard spot this year - that would be crazy talk.
Juancho Hernangomez: A
Juanchooooo! If Nurkic is the star of preseason, Hernangomez is the runner-up. He gives great effort, and before you know it, he finishes with 13 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. He battles on the glass, and should be a positive for the Nuggets in that aspect of the game throughout his career. As he continues to develop familiarity with the playbook and his teammates, he’s going to be such an asset on the court. If he’s getting minutes, try to watch if possible.
Malik Beasley: C
Beasley couldn’t get his jumper to work with the rims tonight, finishing 1-7 with his only make coming on a 3-point attempt. He had a bad defensive play where he tried to beat Williams over a screen, giving Williams an opportunity to pull up for a jumper dribbling left, which happens to be Williams favorite play. Oops. I don’t want to knock him for too many mistakes though, because, like Murray and Hernangomez, they literally don’t know better. Everything is still very new to them, and with time, they’ll figure things out.
Robbie Hummel: C-
Hummel played 16 minutes, and was a -16 in the plus/minus. While Beasley gets knocked for poor defense due to inexperience, Hummel has played in the NBA before and is 27 years old. Why is he playing over JaKarr Sampson and Axel Toupane? Does he realistically have a shot at making the roster? Why? I have no reason to dislike Hummel, but he is not better at basketball than either of those two players. It’s hard to not throw things at the screen when watching him on the court.
Jarnell Stokes: D
I can’t give out a higher grade to a player that fouled out in 16 minutes. Stokes was alright on the glass, and had a pair of baskets in the game, but for the most part, he was just pushing Tarik Black or Larry Nance Jr. around the hoop. I think he still has a good shot to make the roster, but his lack of athleticism was on display tonight against those two Lakers bigs who are quite bouncy. Not a good matchup for the D-League prospect.
Juancho flexes on the Lakers. The runner up was a nice jam by former Nuggets big Timofey Mozgov, but he plays for the Lakers now, so that’s a bummer.