The Lakers returned to Staples tonight to play in their preseason home opener against the Denver Nuggets in front of a large home crowd. It’s the Lakers’ first game back at Staples since they were swept in last season’s playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs.
There were some familiar faces in the starting lineup tonight with Pau Gasol making his preseason debut and Steve Nash holding down the role as floor general in the game. However, this Lakers squad is much different than the team that took the floor in their last home game and the Staples Center crowd could feel the aurora of this new look Lakers who brought energy into the building.
The Lakers began the game with a lot of energy in moving the ball around and ultimately scoring their first point with with a Nick Young 15-foot jumper that was assisted from Pau Gasol. It was very obvious the Lakers designed a game plan that involved moving the ball around and keeping an uptempo style of play as Gasol acted as facilitator in setting up Wes Johnson and Nick Young with opportunities to shoot mid-range jumpers. However, the Lakers shot poorly from the floor with several missed opportunities and the Nuggets made them pay by taking a 27-25 lead at the end of the first.
In the second quarter, the Lakers bounced back with coming out the gate with defensive intensity as Jordan Hill Robert Sacre entered the game and snagged a combination of 4 rebounds. The big men made their defensive presence known by being active around the rim and hustling after the ball to keep the Lakers’ offensive possessions alive. However, there was a downside to the quarter when Wes Johnson went down with a reported strain left foot injury, which he’ll have a MRI tomorrow to confirm the injury. The Lakers went into the locker room down at the half 46-44.
The second half began with a Jodie Meeks 3 pointer from Steve Nash as the Lakers continued an uptempo play with an offensive attack. Nick Young and Xavier Henry took the game into their own hands by aggressively attacking the rim and making things happen in the paint. However, the Lakers lacked energy in transition defense and couldn’t withstand a Nuggets offensive outburst. To make things worse, Nash left in the quarter with an injury and the Nuggets took advantage by taking a commanding 72-58 lead heading in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers started out the fourth in a deep hole and showed signs of life by cutting down the lead to nine points, but the Nuggets’ offense was too much for the Lakers’ reserves in allowing too many transition baskets. The Lakers seemed to struggle throughout the quarter to get defensive stops and couldn’t stop the bleeding with trading baskets throughout the quarter. The most exciting moment of the quarter was Darius Johnson-Odom’s emphatic drive to the rim that made the Staples Center crowd rise to their frets. Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t pull out a consecutive victory and fall to the Nuggets 97-88.