Lakers Vs. Nuggets Preview: Looking To Snap Long Losing Streak To Denver In Game 2
Nikola Jokic, Rui Hachimura, Lakers, Nuggets
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff opener against the Denver Nuggets looked eerily familiar to last year’s Western Conference Finals as head coach Darvin Ham’s team came out strong but ultimately could not keep up with the defending champs in the second half.

The loss was the ninth straight for the Lakers against the Nuggets going back to last season as they just haven’t figured out a way to beat Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Co.

This is, of course, a seven-game series though, so dropping Game 1 doesn’t mean the Lakers’ season is over. They have a prime opportunity to bounce back in Game 2 and snap that losing streak to Denver, although that is obviously no easy task.

If the Lakers are going to overcome these struggles and come away with a win in Game 2, it’s going to come down to late-game execution. The Jokic and Murray two-man game has been difficult for the Lakers to stop, especially when they are flanking by two shooters in Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and one of the best lob threats in the league in Aaron Gordon.

The Lakers decided to use Rui Hachimura as the primary matchup on Jokic in Game 1, allowing Anthony Davis to roam the paint, but that didn’t work as the two-time MVP had 32 points to go along 12 rebounds and seven assists.

Davis said he is willing to guard Jokic more in Game 2 if that is necessary, and perhaps that is one of the adjustments Ham makes on Monday.

None of that will matter if the Lakers can’t rebound the ball better though as they struggled on the defensive glass mightily in Game 1. Denver is too good of a team to give second and third-chance opportunities, so perhaps Ham goes with more bigger lineups to combat that.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Lakers need more production from their backcourt in Game 2 to keep up with the Nuggets. D’Angelo Russell, in particular, struggled once again with 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting in Game 1, a lot of which were good looks.

The Lakers have no chance in this series if they don’t get more from Russell, who had a career year shooting the ball, especially when Spencer Dinwiddie and Gabe Vincent also both went scoreless off the bench.

Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) vs. Denver Nuggets (1-0)

7 p.m. PT, April 22, 2024
Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: LeBron James
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Taurean Prince, Spencer Dinwiddie, Gabe Vincent, Jaxson Hayes

Projected Nuggets Starting Lineup:

PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Michael Porter Jr.
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: Nikola Jokic

Key Reserves: Reggie Jackson, Peyton Watson, Christian Braun, DeAndre Jordan

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