The Los Angeles Lakers began their 2014 preseason with a positive note, earning a 98-95 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday. Their next test will be back at home, against the same team that Kobe Bryant sunk a pair of legendary free throws against after rupturing his Achilles tendon back in April of 2013. The Lakers will look to build on an overall solid performance in their preseason opener. The Golden State Warriors were also victorious in their first preseason contest, defeating the Clippers 112-94 on Tuesday.
Manning the power forward position is David Lee, coming off a year that saw him tally 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The lefty will be heavily involved in pick and roll game, diving to the basket early and often, looking for some buckets around the rim. He is also an adequate midrange shooter from about 15-feet, although he prefers to attack the basket.
Lee, however, is a liability on the defensive end, which is where center Andrew Bogut comes in. The seven-footer anchors the Warriors’ defense, religiously contesting shots around the rim. The former number one overall pick blocked 1.8 shots per game a season ago while grabbing 10 rebounds. Bogut won’t contribute much on offense, but his physical presence is always felt on defense.
Backcourt: Golden State has arguably the best backcourt in the NBA. Stephen Curry is a bona fide superstar in a league filled with supreme talent at the point guard position. The All-Star had a superb 2013-14 season, averaging 24 points and 8.5 assists — both career-bests — on his way to earning All-NBA Second-Team honors. The 26-year-old is regarded by many as the best shooter in the game today, but if his defender gets too close, he can blow by with his speed and quickness and create a quality shot for himself or a teammate. Curry is far from a great defender, but his electrifying ability on offense certainly makes up for that.
Klay Thompson is one of the few players in the NBA that can challenge his backcourt running mate for the title of the league’s best shooter. He hit 41.7 percent of his threes last season en route to 18.4 points per game. Unlike Curry, Thompson excels on the defensive end, often receiving the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s point guard each night. Together, the duo has earned the nickname, the “Splash Brothers”, due to their ability to rip the net from deep. Slowing down these two sharpshooters will be a daunting task for the Lakers.
Things to Watch For:
Wider Distribution of Minutes: Only 11 players received playing time on Monday against the Nuggets. That number likely would have been higher if Nick Young, Ryan Kelly and Xavier Henry weren’t sidelined with injuries, but we should see a few guys further down the bench get some minutes for evaluation purposes as the preseason progresses, considering the roster will be cut down from 19 players to a maximum of 15 by the start of the regular season. Ronnie Price, Keith Appling, Roscoe Smith, Jabari Brown and Jeremy Tyler were the only active players that didn’t see any action in the opening game. Price has made a strong impression in training camp, so he seems the likeliest candidate to get some playing time tonight with the team monitoring Steve Nash’s minutes moving forward.
More Offensive Sets: Coach Byron Scott wants to implement a Princeton-style offensive system, and what better time is there to practice and experiment than the preseason? Against Denver, Kobe, Nash and Jeremy Lin were the main source of playmaking as they accounted for 20 of the team’s 29 assists. Bryant, as anticipated, had plenty of touches in the post while Nash and Lin orchestrated the offense through the pick and roll, but expect to see an expanded offense as the team continues to iron out the offensive kinks of a roster with so many new faces.
Additional Playing Time for Ed Davis: Davis was beyond impressive in his Laker debut, tallying 12 points and four blocks in just 12 minutes. The big man worked beautifully with Lin in the pick and roll game, resulting in six made shots on seven attempts. Davis also made his presence felt on the defensive end as the team’s best rim protector and overall defender, leading some to wonder how Mitch Kupchak was able to acquire the promising 25-year-old for minimal money. Davis earned some more time on the court with his play on Monday, and if he continues to be effective, that trend should continue.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are four-point underdogs to the Warriors according to Sportsbook.ag
Los Angeles Lakers (1-0) vs. Golden State Warriors (1-0)
7:30 PM PST, October 9, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: TWC SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Warriors Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: David Lee
C: Andrew Bogut
Key Reserves: PG: Shaun Livingston SF: Harrison Barnes PF: Draymond Green
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
Lakers Practice: Byron Scott Jokes About Wiping Off Nick Young’s Smile