Lakers Vs. Nuggets Preview: Young Core Attempts To Battle Nerves Second Time Around
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

During their preseason debut, the Los Angeles Lakers mustered an impressive fourth quarter comeback victory in Luke Walton‘s coaching debut. While there were facets of the game to improve on, the team will work through their kinks in their second matchup against the Denver Nuggets.

Rookie forward Brandon Ingram displayed some nerves in his debut, but fought hard on the defensive end when his shot wasn’t falling.

Point guard D’Angelo Russell, who went 2-for-8, stated he had an average outing in the first contest.

The Lakers’ offense Lakers looked stagnant at times, with a lot of up-tempo offense, without execution. The team had 20 total turnovers in their first game, which certainly can see some improvement heading forward.

While the starters had a lackluster beginning, the bench play picked up the pace in their comeback victory. Tarik Brown went 5-for-5, with 15 points and five rebounds off the bench. Sharpshooter Anthony Brown also caught fire, going 4-for-4, with 10 points and two three-pointers.

Their matchup on Friday should see much of the same, with each player competing for a roster spot and improving their execution.


Julius Randle had perhaps the most underwhelming beginning to his season, as the starter had four turnovers on Tuesday. While he did debut an improved mid-range jump shot, his strength in the paint remains his key asset.

Center Timofey Mozgov seemed to flourish in his 22 minutes of action. The offseason acquisition showed a keen sense to pass the ball, which led to spacing on the floor. His ability to spread the ball around led to two assists on top of his six points and nine rebounds.

Larry Nance Jr. also had a strong preseason debut on Tuesday, filling up the stat sheet. For the game, he collected nine points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks in 24 minutes. His knowledge of the game was on display, as his basketball IQ led to different scoring opportunities on offense.

The Nuggets boast one of the tallest frontcourts in the NBA, led by 7-footer Jusuf Nurkic. In their preseason debut against the Toronto Raptors, he collected 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 23 minutes played. The 22-year-old will anchor the defense for head coach Michael Malone.

Power forward Kenneth Faried is the X-factor for the Nuggets. The 26-year-old is the engine that runs the Nuggets, with his athletic ability creating many highlights.

Small forward Danilo Gallinari provides some much-needed scoring for the Nuggets. In 21 minutes against the Raptors, he provided 14 points, mostly coming from the foul line. He went just 2-for-4 from the field but nailed nine free throws on top of his two rebounds and two assists.

Backups Wilson Chandler and Nikola Jokic will provide action off the bench, a part of an athletic second unit.


The Lakers backcourt didn’t produce to expectations but are shaking off the rust. Russell had a team-high five turnovers against the Kings, but is learning to facilitate Walton’s newly instilled offense.

In a surprising twist, Lou Williams got the start on Tuesday. While Walton said it wasn’t set in stone, he is experimenting with different options. Clarkson was indifferent about starting but showed an improved effort on defense.

The Nuggets backcourt features a pair of young players who are hopeful for a breakout season. Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay takes the reigns of the offense but had a sub-par start to the preseason. The second-year player went 3-for-11, with seven points, seven rebounds and two assists.

Shooting guard Gary Harris, who was expected to start, suffered an unfortunate set back. On Thursday, coach Malone stated Harris would miss about a month, with a groin injury.

Backup Will Barton should take over Harris’ responsibilities. The fifth-year player saw the most action against the Raptors, playing in 26 minutes. The 25-year-old provides an athletic wing, which can guard multiple positions.

Keys to Victory:

Spacing: During the first preseason contest, the expected up-tempo offense looked static. While different players led the ball up the court, it seemed as though the offense wasn’t executed fluidly. Spacing should allow more angles to attack the defense from, while distribution from the paint could set up cuts and open threes.

Calming the Nerves: The Lakers understand that the young core is slated to headline the new era of basketball, but it must be done accordingly. While fans expect offensive onslaughts from the likes of Russell and Randle, they must understand the importance of the offense. The new system will take some time to comprehend. The stars of the Lakers should let the offense create opportunities for them, which will then create spacing for the role players to flourish in.

Los Angeles Lakers (1-0) vs. Sacramento Kings (1-0)

7:30 P.M. PST, October 7, 2016
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN/1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Metta World Peace
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Yi Jianlian, Jose Calderon

Nuggets Starting Lineup:

PG: Emmanuel Mudiay
SG: Will Barton
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Nikola Jokic
C: Jusuf Nurkic

Key Reserves: Nikola Jokic, Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson

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