Nuggets Vs. Lakers Preview: Return Home For Must-Win Game 3
Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Lakers, Nuggets
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After a demoralizing Game 2 loss, the Los Angeles Lakers have stressed that they are focused on Game 3 and must put that defeat behind them. They now get the chance as they return home to Crypto.com Arena with plans on finally getting in the win column against the Denver Nuggets.

There isn’t much more that can be asked of Anthony Davis. The big man is averaging 32 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on 61.9% shooting in the first two games of the series while battling with Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic on the defensive end.

The same can be said for LeBron James, who is averaging 26.5 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists while knocking down 54.5% of his 3-pointers. The Lakers continuing to get this level of performance from their two stars sets them in a good position, but of course it will be the other factors that decide the game.

What the Lakers get from their supporting cast will be massive and role players do tend to play better at home. D’Angelo Russell did an excellent job in bouncing back from a rough Game 1 to knock down seven 3-pointers in Game 2. A repeat performance in Game 3 would get the home crowd rocking at a high level and perhaps give the Lakers an extra momentum boost overall.

Austin Reaves hasn’t given the Lakers much offensively, and a big night from him would certainly be appreciated. But his efforts on defense, helping to hold Jamal Murray to just 37.5% shooting in the first two games should not go unnoticed and is certainly taking a lot of his focus and energy.

What the Lakers need is for Rui Hachimura to return to the player he was during the regular season. The Nuggets’ adjustment in Game 2 of putting Jokic on Hachimura completely stymied the Lakers’ offense and an aggressive and efficient Hachimura could help to offset that.

In the end, these games have ultimately come down to three things for the Lakers: turnovers, offensive rebounds and late-game execution. The Lakers have twice as many turnovers than Denver through two games and have allowed 24 offensive rebounds. The end result is the Nuggets having 33 more shot attempts so far in the series and even with the Lakers playing solid defense, that just can’t happen against an offense as efficient and explosive as Denver’s.

The other problem is that the Lakers’ defense has simply been shredded when it matters most late in the game and too often their late-game offense has boiled down to LeBron dribbling until late in the shot clock before an isolation attempt or pick-and-roll. The Lakers simply have to find a way to be better in those closing minutes and that is on both the coaches and players.

The Lakers have held double-digit leads in each of the first two games and have shown they are capable of excellent stretches. But against the Nuggets, those stretches must become entire quarters and there can be no let down as if there is, the Lakers could find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Los Angeles Lakers (0-2) vs. Denver Nuggets (2-0)

7 p.m. PT, April 25, 2024
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
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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