The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets face off once again in each team’s second preseason contest, though this time the game will take place at Staples Center, making it LeBron James’ debut at his new home arena.
Sunday’s 124-107 loss had its good and bad moments for the Lakers. James showed the impact he will have on the rest of the team, totaling nine points, three rebounds, and three assists in just 15 minutes. James also knocked down both of his three-point attempts.
Other positives on Sunday included Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma each looking ready to take a big step in their development this year with 16 and 15 points respectively, and JaVale McGee having an impressive debut, leading the Lakers with 17 points and seven rebounds.
As is to be expected this early on, the Lakers struggled defensively as they work to develop their communication and chemistry. They committed 31 fouls, allowing the Nuggets to attempt 35 free throws (making 31) while also struggling to contain the likes of Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez.
On Tuesday, the Lakers will again be without point guard Lonzo Ball who, despite president of basketball operation’s Magic Johnson’s praise, is still being brought back slowly from knee surgery. Ball did just take part in his first scrimmage on Monday so it should only be a matter of time before he is back in uniform.
This means that veteran Rajon Rondo will once again be the lead playmaker for the Lakers. He notched 11 assists with just two turnovers in the preseason opener, but this time he will have a different backcourt mate. Luke Walton announced that Josh Hart will get the start over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Walton is likely just getting a look at different lineups, which is something he wants to do during the preseason. Seeing how different groups work together and the type of chemistry they have will help decide the rotations once the regular season gets going. Hart has had a great summer, but Walton noted that this was not a knock to KCP.
The Nuggets will once again be without starting shooting guard Gary Harris due to a sore hamstring, but that did nothing to stop their offensive onslaught on Sunday. Unlike the Lakers, the Nuggets have a ton of continuity, bringing most of their team back from last year, and it showed. Former Laker Isaiah Thomas also remains out as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.
Coming off their opener, head coach Luke Walton knows what his team needs to work on and they will look to show progress in Tuesday’s contest. Ingram looked comfortable playing off the ball with James and was a main beneficiary to the attention LeBron draws so they will look to continue building that chemistry.
The same goes for Kuzma, who spent some time as a small-ball center as well on Sunday’s game and will continue to show what he’s added to his game.
Just as important for the Lakers is to figure out their bench rotation and who will lead the second unit. Ball being out certainly makes a difference, and either he or Rondo leading the bench will certainly enhance things. The combination of Ingram, Lance Stephenson, and Josh Hart split lead playmaking duties, but things didn’t go too well.
Three-point shooting will also be something to watch for the Lakers as they did little to quell concerns about that on Sunday, hitting just 32 percent from deep. Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma and rookie Svi Mykhailiuk combined to shoot just 3-of-15 from three-point range.
With just two days in between their first and second meetings there wasn’t much time for either side to make any major changes. Regardless, the Lakers will look to build on the positives showed on Sunday while beginning to fix their issues and sort out their rotations in front of their home Staples Center crowd.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-1) Vs Denver Nuggets (1-0):
7:30 P.M. PT, Oct. 2, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, TNT
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: LeBron James
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Svi Mykhailiuk
Projected Nuggets Starting Lineup:
PG: Jamal Murray
SG: Will Barton
SF: Torrey Craig
PF: Paul Millsap
C: Nikola Jokic
Key Reserves: Juan Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, Monte Morris