The Lakers and Nuggets met for the second time in three days in NBA preseason action. Here is our recap of all of the action.
With Luol Deng still out with a bruised knee, the Lakers starting five was D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Nick Young, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov. The Lakers started off with nice ball movement as well as a series of off-ball screens that helped free up Randle for a dunk. Unfortunately, the gave the points back on the other end when Randle needlessly rotated into the paint, leaving Kenneth Faried for a slam of his own. Denver also exploited the Young/Gallinari match up early on. D’Angelo Russell hit a step-back off the glass and Young hit a three to give the Lakers an early 11-8 lead.
Mozgov got a beautiful driving dunk out of the pick and roll that he threw down with all the fury of Mother Russia, and then Lou Williams hit a transition three to get the Lakers bench on their feet. Walton subbed in his bench mob with four minutes left in the quarter, bringing Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black in to play with Russell. The Lakers appeared to be determined to get out and run, and Russell picked up right where he left off last game, hitting shots from all over the court. By the time Jose Calderon subbed in, Russell had 16 points and was hitting from all over the floor.
Jose Calderon knocked down a three near the end of the quarter, and the Lakers led, 32-23.
The Lakers continued to play high-energy, pressure defense, with Nance and Black stepping out on switches and making life tough on the Nuggets. Rookie Jamal Murray appeared to turn his ankle, and the resulting five-on-four possession allowed Black to throw down a thunderous dunk. Denver began to chip away at the Lakers lead thanks to Emanuel Mudiay getting in the paint at will against Calderon.
Denver’s defense ratcheted things up and they began to cut into the Lakers’ lead, particularly by getting to the free throw line. Mudiay created havoc by getting into the paint, and with two minutes to play the Lakers’ lead was cut to just one.
In the last two minutes, the Lakers went to a young lineup of Russell, Clarkson, Ingram, Nance, and Ivica Zubac, which was nice to see. Russell hit a couple of quick mid-range jumpers to help the Lakers offense, but they continued to foul on the other end, erasing chances to increase their lead.
Clarkson was fouled shooting a three to end the quarter and hit two of three free throws, but with two seconds left they let Will Barton get straight to the rim for an and-one, finishing the half tied 53-53.
The Lakers opened the third quarter with Zubac taking Mozgov’s place in the starting lineup. D’Angelo Russell almost immediately drew a foul on Mudiay and made one of two free throws to pull the Lakers ahead. Nurkic scored on a pick and roll, then a series of ugly shots from both sides plagued the game.
Randle had a nice basket from the right block, Young hit a step back three, and then Zubac got a nice dunk off a feed from Randle to bring the Lakers’ lead up to five. Still, with Denver up 32-17 in rebounding, the Lakers have some work to do in the paint. D’Angelo Russell continued to be on fire for the Lakers, scoring another nine points to bring his total to 27 before subbing out with just over three minutes left.
Both teams claimed then lost the lead multiple times throughout the quarter, creating a fun back-and-forth battle. There were also plenty of mistakes on both sides, but that’s what the preseason is for.
Denver’s parade to the free throw line continued as the quarter wore on, allowing them to build a bit of a lead. Playing defense without fouling will be something that the Lakers will have to work on.
The Lakers battled back as the quarter went on, eventually knotting the score at 85 on a three from Calderon.
The Lakers opened the fourth with their reserve unit still on the floor, and Brandon Ingram appeared to be determined to get to the basket, drawing two early fouls. Young came on for Nance as the Lakers tried going small to get a little more offensive punch. The Nuggets had claimed a bit of a lead, and Walton was clearly looking for some firepower.
Walton went almost all offense with a Calderon/Lou/Young/Randle/Robinson lineup, and while the defense suffered, the Lakers brought the score to within one with seven minutes to play. The Lakers tied the score a few moments later after a few nice plays from Williams, but Nurkic managed to get position inside on Robinson and score.
Williams was hot, though, and connected on a three and then hit two free throws to give the Lakers a three-point lead with four minutes and forty seconds left.
Williams continued his hot shooting, connecting on yet another three, and then Randle scored on a pair of free throws and a driving floater to push the Lakers lead all the way up to 10, 112-102 with three and a half minutes to play. It does have to be noted that the Lakers were playing their starters (and Robinson) while the Nuggets primarily had their bench on the floor aside from Nurkic, but it was good to see the team playing with confidence.
Russell hit another three to bring him up to 30 points on the night, and the rest was academic. The Lakers simply couldn’t miss down the stretch, and the team coasted to a 124- victory. They finished the evening shooting 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from three, both incredible feats.
Los Angeles is now 2-1 in the preseason and will take on the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday.