The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets for the second straight preseason game Wednesday night, but this time the two teams traveled south to Ontario.
Unlike the first matchup though, both teams were without key players due to injury as Brook Lopez (back), Lonzo Ball (ankle), Brandon Ingram (head contusion), as well as Andrew Bogut all missed the game for Los Angeles.
The Nuggets were without four starters in Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic.
With so many players being out, it gave young players and guys fighting for roster spots like Thomas Bryant, Kyle Kuzma, Tyler Ennis, Briante Weber and Ivica Zubac an uptick in their minutes. Additionally, Lakers rookie Josh Hart, who missed the first two games with a hamstring injury, made his preseason debut.
The Nuggets hot shooting from Monday night continued, as they seemingly could not miss from three-point range in the first half. They shot 55.1 percent from the field and knocked down 14 of their 25 three-point attempts.
A lot of the Lakers focus so far in training camp has been on the defensive end of the floor, but there was no evidence of that in the first half Wednesday night as the Nuggets put up 74 first-half points, leading 74-52 at halftime.
The Lakers were doing a good job of communicating on the defensive end of the floor, but often over-rotated which left shooters open and the Nuggets made them pay seemingly every time.
One bright spot for the Lakers in the first half was the continued impressive play of rookie 27th overall pick Kyle Kuzma. In 14 first-half minutes, Kuzma led the Lakers with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. He also had two steals on the defensive end. Jordan Clarkson also had a nice half, scoring 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting off the bench.
Denver had four players in double figures in the first half, as Trey Lyles, Juan Hernangomez, Jamaal Murray and Kenneth Faried combined to make 19 of their 26 shots.
The second half was much of the same for the Lakers, as they struggled to get stops on defense. The Lakers trailed 103-75 after three quarters, so Walton used the entire fourth quarter to get some action for the guys fighting for the final roster spot.
Walton let young players play all of the fourth quarter, as guys like Kuzma, Nance, Zubac, Hart, Weber, V.J. Beachem, Stephen Zimmerman and Vander Blue all got some time to play and develop together.
The Lakers late first round picks, Kuzma and Hart, both showed what they were capable of as they competed on both ends of the floor and made plays for their team, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Lakers fell 122-104.
The Lakers next take the court Sunday in Las Vegas when they host the Sacramento Kings at 6 p.m. PST.