The Lakers get the Denver Nuggets for the second time in five days.
With the Sacramento Kings winning on Saturday night, that leaves the Lakers as the only unbeaten team left this season. Wait. What do you mean I’m mistaken?
Actually, that leaves the Lakers as the only winless team left this season. They have a shiny 0-5 record. I can’t even believe I’m saying this for a Los Angeles Lakers team led by LeBron James.
The NBA regular season is in its 13th day and let me reiterate again that the Lakers have yet to scratch a win. They’ve had different problems throughout the young season.
- Getting beat over and over by a perpetual motion offense.
- Getting dominated on the boards.
- Taking ill-advised shots and blowing a late 7-point lead.
- Getting run out of the building.
- Not taking care of the ball.
And in all of those games, they did not shoot the ball well from the perimeter. They shot best from three last Friday against Minnesota… and that was a not-so-good .310 percentage (9 for 29). Overall? They’re shooting a putrid 42 for 177 from behind the arc. That is .237. That’s not even a quarter.
So it’s safe to say that they need help practically everywhere. But there are some silver linings, if you can believe that.
LeBron James is still an excellent player, even in his 20th season. You can really only wonder how this team would be without him. Maybe the Lakers aren’t totally devoid of shooters; Matt Ryan (.500 in 2.7 three-point attempts per game), Austin Reaves (.462 in 2.6), and Troy Brown, Jr. (.364 in 3.7) have done well for themselves. Unfortunately, the rest of the team aren’t doing great, which is putting it very mildly.
Russell Westbrook probably played his best game last Friday when he came off the bench. It wasn’t the greatest; he missed his first five shots and had five turnovers against the Wolves. But we saw flashes of the former MVP. There were times where we would see that familiar reckless abandon. And we saw him make some very good passes that reminded us that he led the league in assists three times. Coach Darvin Ham might go back to bringing Russ off the pine.
And of course, their defense is still really, really good (according to NBA.com, they’re actually 2nd in defensive rating, allowing 103.8 points per 100 possessions). It’s just too bad that it’s not complemented by their offense, which has been absolutely rotten in this young season so far.
Now it’s not like they’re going to go 0-82 (or will they?!). And it’s not like they were blown out in every game; in fact, only two of their five games have been double-digit losses. To clarify, I’m not saying there’s anything positive about their 0-5 record but with those other three losses that were by 9 points or under, there is some hope. And maybe being at home for the next four games can give them a boost.
Well, the bad news (besides all the things that I said earlier) is that they’re playing a team that has beaten them already in the Denver Nuggets. It’s always quite a challenge to run up against the two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic. He burned the Lakers with 31 points, 13 boards, 9 assists, and four steals. Bruce Brown put in 16 of his 18 points in the first half. And the Nuggets outscored the Lakers by 15 in that third quarter. That 15-point lead might as well have been 150 the way the Lakers get points.
I mentioned the Lakers getting run out of the building. The Lakers allowed a season-high 35 fast break points against Denver. And like I said before, it’s quite the puzzle because the Lakers play best when they’re running. Either way, while their defense has been mostly great, their transition D isn’t. The Lakers allow the most fast break points in the league at 21.0 points per. It’s easy to say that the Lakers need to put points on the board and continue to play hellish defense but they also really need to take care of the ball and not let the Nuggets run amok on the open court.
As for roster health, Juan Toscano-Anderson will miss his second game in a row due to ankle problems. As of this writing, Anthony Davis is listed as questionable due to back soreness. Michael Porter, Jr. didn’t play against the Lakers last Wednesday but he’s available for this contest. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is questionable as he has his own ankle issues.
It’s Halloween tomorrow. At the very least, the Lakers could do well by dressing up like a professional basketball team. Otherwise, the team could have the worst start in Los Angeles Lakers history after Sunday.
That’s a scary thought.