The Denver Nuggets once again face off against the Los Angeles Lakers in California, this time an hour down I-10 from the Staples Center in Ontario. The Lakers hope shifting the location brings them some better starting mojo, as Denver overcame a slow start to build a 22 point lead with 9 minutes to go in the game.
The Lakers fought back to single digits by the end of the game against Denver’s bench, but Los Angeles will have to find a way to slow Denver’s torrid outside shooting and ball movement to get a better outcome in this one.
Who: Denver Nuggets (2-0) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)
Where: Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario CA
When: 8:00 PM MT
How to watch: NBA TV or Altitude TV
Rival blog: Silver Screen and Roll
Nuggets injury report:
Jameer in. Millsap out. Wilson questionable. Curious to see what Jokic-Faried lineups look like. Also think we'll get lots of Jokic-ball. pic.twitter.com/zlCOVUo9Oh— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) October 3, 2017
***UPDATE: JOKIC, CHANDLER AND HARRIS ARE ALSO NOT PLAYING. FORGET THE REST OF THIS PREVIEW AND HAVE FUN WATCHING THE BACKUPS FIGHT FOR ROTATION SPOTS***
Wilson Chandler (hip), Gary Harris (shoulder), Nikola Jokic (elbow), and Paul Millsap (rest) will not play in tonight’s game. #Nuggets— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) October 4, 2017
Three things to watch
The point guard saga continues
Emmanuel Mudiay had 6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 turnovers against the Lakers in 25 minutes, which is a very Mudiay-like box score. He hustled on defense, however, and looked to be aggressive whenever he could - unlike Jamal Murray, whose play thus far might best be termed “tentative” in too many spots.
With the same opponent on the docket it’s the perfect time to switch the starter again, so I expect Jamal Murray to get to run with the starters - but Jameer Nelson is going to want to get some run before the season starts too and with the shortened pre-season there’s not a lot of time to wait. Whether starting or coming off the bench, Murray can’t go 2-for-9 with weak deference and indecisive shooting and expect to open the season in the starting lineup.
Shaking off the rust of the summer is hard, especially since a large chunk of his summer was spend rehabbing from surgery. If Mudiay isn’t exactly winning the Game 1 starting job outright at the moment, though, Murray does look like he’s letting it slip away - and Jameer is waiting in the wings.
Tonight is a good night to alter that momentum.
Avoid slow starts
The Nuggets started the game like they collectively crawled into their hotel rooms at dawn after a night in the L.A. party scene. They can’t do that again. Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic still treat each other like near-strangers on the court, and while Millsap is making the best of it while the ball is in Jokic’s hands, Jokic so far has struggled when he’s not the focal point of the possession. Millsap taking a rest night should be the perfect night to center the offense around Jokic (pun intended) and not-so-subtly remind him that he is the engine that makes this team run.
He can’t sideline himself to accomodate anyone, not even an All-Star like Millsap. Without the Anchorman in the lineup to distract him from that fact, hopefully Jokic comes out of the gates with a purpose.
Roleplayers, play your role
Gary Harris put up 25 points in 21 minutes and Juancho Hernangomez logged 11 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes. Those guys already fit back into their 2016-17 roles easily, with Juancho looking for expanded court time. Figuring out how to fit in will be important for everyone on this team, but especially those looking to profit off the Millsap/Jokic assists.
Trey Lyles and Kenneth Faried will likely both get run at the 4 with Millsap out and Wilson Chandler questionable, and Michael Malone will no doubt attempt to tweak some of his rotations as the Nuggets head toward the season. We’ll see how they do about limiting Juancho’s minutes as intended (since they haven’t been very limited so far) but figuring out how the pieces need to fit together is key in the next three pre-season games. As long as the Nuggets focus on fulfilling their roles, the roster should shake itself out
Prediction: the Nuggets play a full game and take a lap around the Lakers, 115-101. Unless of course they find a new nightclub... ***UPDATE: IF THE NUGGETS STILL WIN THIS WITHOUT FOUR STARTERS THEN HAHAHAHAHAHA...***
Best positional battle:
This poll is closed
Faried vs Lyles
Murray vs Mudiay
Plumlee vs. the free throw line
Here are Monday’s highlights, in case you need a warm-up for tonight.