Lakers meet Nuggets for third time this season

Lakers will try to snap out of their funk as they have lost four of five games.

The Lakers are gonna try to shake off their loss against their hated rivals, the Boston Celtics. What adds to the many frustrations with this Laker team has been their inability to close games out.

Los Angeles lost to Portland after Jerami Grant made a lay-up in the waning seconds. They were leading by two with under two minutes left against the Kings before De’Aaron Fox led an 8-0 run to light the beam for Sacramento. We all remember them losing a 17-point lead against the Pacers and losing to a buzzer-beater by Andrew Nembhard. While it took a miraculous comeback, the Lakers had a chance to win against Philadelphia but missed free throws extended the game to overtime, where the Sixers took care of business. And of course, there was that game against the Celtics.

Those were five games that they had a chance to win but, for one reason or another, each game was taken away from them in the last moments of the game. Call it choking or whatever you want but the Lakers just couldn’t get it done. Yes, there’s a lot of ebb and flow in basketball but these moments are easily the difference between 11-16 and 16-11. And nobody wants to hear that they can’t finish or close out.

In any case, these are all in the rear view mirror now. What’s in front of them? A team that they’ve already faced twice this season: the Denver Nuggets.

In the first game, the Nuggets kicked their tails in transition. In the rematch a few days later, the Lakers made a rare third quarter run and got their first win of the season.

Since then, the Nuggets have played much better. They’re actually third right now in the extremely competitive Western Conference at 17-10. Denver’s offense is, not surprisingly, outstanding as they are second in offensive rating, scoring 116.8 points per 100 possessions. But they still have trouble stopping teams; they’re 28th in defensive rating, allowing 114.8 points per 100 possessions. Denver seems okay with trading baskets and outgunning the other team. And with the Lakers having a lot of firepower these days and just being a better defensive team, this could spell trouble for the team from Mile High.

That’s if the Lakers come out with a sense of urgency. Against Boston, they didn’t come out with a lot of energy. In Philadelphia, they got down big. They shouldn’t wait for Russell Westbrook to come off the bench and give them a boost. And the Lakers need their supporting cast to make more of an impact. Yes, it’s great that L.A. has a dominant Anthony Davis and a still-deadly LeBron James. But we’d love to see Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV get it going on both sides of the floor. Dennis Schröder needs to break down more defenses with his drives. And the Lakers need Patrick Beverley to make other teams pay.

We know about the Lakers’ roster construction but Darvin Ham keeps putting out three or four-guard line-ups out there. Their opponents absolutely handle them when the Lakers are playing small (sometimes, too small). He has to make-do with what he has. Why not give Max Christie more time? Stagger LeBron and Davis more. Use Troy Brown, Jr. more often (he did play the entirety of the fourth quarter against Boston).

It’s unfortunate that the Nuggets haven’t had Michael Porter, Jr. for a couple of weeks due to a heel injury. But somehow, Denver hasn’t missed a beat offensively. Still, the Lakers have one less worry as Porter can be a nightmare match-up due to his size and shooting.

Denver has Nikola Jokic, though, who went for 31-13-9 in their first game and 23 points and 14 boards in the second. He’s going to get his. They can’t let guys like Bruce Brown go off (in the first game, 16 of his 18 points were scored in the first half). Jamal Murray is still working his way back; he only scored five points against Washington on Wednesday but scored 30 against Utah last Saturday. But what really need to watch out is the transition game. Nuggets scored 35 fast break points in the first game but limited to 9 in the second. No shock that the Lakers came away with their first win when they prevented Denver from running amok.

So both teams will have to overcome their lack of focus. Lakers, who have lost four of their last five games, need to start and finish strong. Nuggets would rather do shootouts instead of getting it done defensively. If the Lakers can regain that defensive energy they had early in the season to go with their offense as of late, they can beat any team in the league. They already did it once against the Nuggets.

Maybe on Friday, they can make it twice.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x