The Los Angeles Lakers look to pick up their first win of the season as they hit the road to take on reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Last season, Denver won the season series 2-1 with the Lakers’ lone victory coming on the final night of the season as Denver rested their regulars.
The big story coming into this game for the Lakers is who is not playing as point guard Russell Westbrook is sitting out due to a hamstring issue. Fair or not, Westbrook has been the recipient of a ton of criticism for his start to the season and the Lakers will now get their first crack at showing what they can do without the controversial point guard.
The most likely option to enter the starting lineup would seem to be Austin Reaves and it looks like that will be the case, and it could be a more permanent move, per Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Lakers guard Austin Reaves is expected to start in place of Russell Westbrook (out, hamstring) tonight vs. Nuggets, per sources, a lineup change L.A. could keep moving forward as team searches for rotations. Reporting: pic.twitter.com/tv4ZloZXUm
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 26, 2022
Reaves would give the Lakers more size on the perimeter as well as his normal good defense and decision-making. Troy Brown Jr. should also see increased minutes after impressing in his first appearance of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Regardless of who is on the court surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers simply have to hit some outside shots. Even moving closer towards league average in 3-point percentage would do wonders for this offense and clear out the paint some for Davis and LeBron to attack. But the Lakers must also continue to keep up their execution on the other side of the court.
While the Lakers are dead last in offensive rating, they are currently second in the league defensive rating, a number even more impressive considering the amount of misses the Lakers have should conceivably lead to a lot of transition opportunities and easy buckets for the opposition.
The Nuggets have the opposite issue as they have one of the worst defenses in the league early on this season. Things will also be a little tougher on offense as they will be without their second-leading scorer in Michael Porter Jr. due to what the Nuggets called lumbar management.
Even still, the Nuggets have plenty of weapons starting with Jokic, who is averaging nearly a triple-double to start the season. Former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also off to a hot start, shooting 47.6 percent from deep so far and Bones Hyland is an extremely explosive scorer off the bench.
The key for the Nuggets, especially on this night, however, will be Jamal Murray who has gotten off to a slow start in his return from a torn ACL. With Porter out, they will likely lean on Murray a bit more to help pick up the offensive slack.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-3) @ Denver Nuggets (2-2)
7:00 p.m. PT, October 26, 2022
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Lonnie Walker IV
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Kendrick Nunn, Troy Brown Jr., Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Wenyen Gabriel
Projected Nuggets Starting Lineup:
PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Bruce Brown
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Jokic
Key Reserves: Bones Hyland, Jeff Green, Christian Braun, DeAndre Jordan