The Denver Nuggets (2-2) head back to Ball Arena to take on LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (0-3). The game tonight will kick off a 2 game homestand for Denver. The Nuggets and Lakers had their battles over the years and this game should be no different. The Lakers have won 7 of the last 13 meetings between the two teams, if Denver wins tonight they’ll even the score at 7-7 in meetings within the last 5 seasons. The Lakers are hungry for their first win of the season and the Nuggets can use every win possible in this year’s Western Conference.
After getting dismantled in the 3rd quarter in Monday’s loss to the Trail Blazers, the Nuggets need a bounce-back win with Utah looming next in the schedule. Nikola Jokić only shot 4 times all game, without his normal level of offensive production Denver stood no chance. Aaron Gordon, MPJ, and Bones Hyland all had good offensive showings on Monday but, the Nuggets need Jamal Murray and Jokić to step up offensively if they want to win tonight’s game. This will be Denver’s second home game of the season, hopefully, they can put a show on for the home fans against the Lakers.
The Lakers have had one of the rougher starts to a season in recent years, shooting a by far league-worst 25-118 (21.2%) from three to start the season. They are coming off a disappointing loss to the Trail Blazers after some bad offensive plays to close the game. Russel Westbrook has taken most of the criticism for the opening of the season averaging 10.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and is shooting .083% from three. Both Anthony Davis and LeBron James look like their former selves, but this Laker team can still be dangerous if things go right for them.
Who: The Los Angeles Lakers (0-3, 0-1 away) @ The Denver Nuggets (2-1, 1-0 at home)
When: 8:00 p.m. MST
Where: Ball Arena, Denver CO
How to Watch/Listen: ESPN, NBA League Pass for the non-Denver market, and AltitudeTV if available. Also on 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Silver Screen and Roll
Expected Starting Lineups:
DEN: Jamal Murray (PG), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG), Michael Porter Jr. (SF), Aaron Gordon (PF), and Nikola Jokić (C)
LAL: Patrick Beverley (PG), Lonnie Walker IV (SG), Troy Brown Jr. (SF), LeBron James (PF), and Anthony Davis (C).
DEN- Jeff Green, Probable (Left Finger Sprain), Michael Porter Jr., Questionable (Lumbar Spine Injury Management), Collin Gillespie, out (Leg)
LAL- Russel Westbrook, Doubtful (Hamstring)
Three Things to Watch For:
How Denver defends the Lakers three-point shooting
It’s no secret that the Lakers have the worst three-point shooting roster in the league, Denver needs to show that their defense can adapt and exploit the Laker’s offense. Most teams this year have been letting their center guard Westbrook and sag off him so that their center is basically just in zone coverage of the paint. While we don’t know if Westbrook will play tonight, it will still be interesting to watch how Denver guards the Lakers from three. I am assuming Aaron Gordon will guard LeBron, leaving both MPJ and KCP able to double LeBron off their matchup and make the Lakers hit their threes.
Nikola Jokić bounce back scoring game
Nikola Jokić had an oddity of a performance for his standards in Portland with only 4 shots, it is all but a guarantee that he will shoot more than that tonight. With the Nuggets losing their last game I would be worried if Jokić doesn’t try to take more of a scoring burden tonight and more of an overall offensive load. His 9 points was the second lowest amount of points he has scored in the last 3 seasons. The last time Jokić scored that little was also against the Trail Blazers, but he bounced back with 22 points and 16 rebounds in his next game.
Jamal Murray finding his shot
Jamal Murray is shooting 37% from the field with 12 points per game in his return to play so far this season, for the Nuggets to take the leap many people think they will he’s going to need to up that. While it is obvious and expected that he will be rusty and need some time to get used to NBA action again, he is bound to get better with every game he plays. With the Lakers presumably starting Patrick Beverley at point guard, Jamal is going to have his hands full and it will be interesting to see how he will handle such an in-your-face defender. Jamal still has plenty of time to get used to the NBA again and no one should be worried about him anytime soon, but he can still go off for a few buckets in a row at any time now.