Lakers vs. Nuggets preview: The vulnerable Nuggets and the schedule loss

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The Lakers will try to reach .500 on the road, in Denver, on the second half of a back-to-back.

Showtime: 6 p.m. PT

Plot: The Los Angeles Lakers are an up and down mess, as detailed by Ben Rosales, and are in Denver to face the Nuggets in a game otherwise known as "Schedule Loss." There are back-to-backs, and there are back-to-backs in Denver.

The Lakers may have found something though in Round 85 of Mike D'Antoni's battle with his rotations. Jordan Hill put up a career-high 21 points along with 11 rebounds in his first start of the season. He benefited from some great passing from his teammates, mainly Steve Blake in the pick-and-roll and Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol in the interior, and he looked like he belonged in the starting five.

More news at 11.

On a non-sarcastic note, it was nice to see Hill perform in a starting role. It's important that he's rolling to the rim and finishing, something the other Lakers bigs aren't doing nearly enough. Kaman thrives as a pop man and Pau hasn't been particularly effective rolling or sticking around the perimeter. It'll be important for him to build on that performance, which I went ahead and put together here:


Wesley Johnson also got his first nod at a starting spot, filling in at small forward. It worked, mainly because Nick Young and Xavier Henry thrived off the bench. They combined for 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting. The Lakers and D'Antoni are still very early in their "figuring things out" stage, but the same can be said for the Nuggets.

Denver is just 2-4 to start the season under rookie head coach Brian Shaw. The once lightning paced team with the second-fastest pace in the NBA is currently ranked tenth. JaVale McGee is out indefinitely with a fractured tibia. Danilo Gallinari is still out after tearing his ACL last season.

Their leading scorer presents the largest problem for the Lakers, though. Ty Lawson is averaging 21.7 points per game and will do everything in his power to bowl over Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar. He's going to drive and create his own space, whether the Lakers' frontcourt defenders react appropriately and rotate in front of him will likely make or break this game.

Also keep an eye on little Nate Robinson who is sneakily shooting 47.1 percent from deep. He doesn't have the size of Lawson, but he's damn quick and won't hesitate to put the Lakers' perimeter defense into a blender before draining a three.

Still, this Nuggets team isn't a powerhouse team. They are long gone from the 'Melo days and aren't even a shadow of the team they were last season with Andre Iguodala and George Karl. While Lawson is having a pretty nice season, he's the only player averaging over 11 points per game. They're averaging 101.7 points per 100 possessions and giving up 104.3 in that same frame.

The Lakers are being outperformed by the Nuggets on both ends of the floor, but nothing is set in stone for either team this early in the season. Shaw clearly has his work cut out for him in his first head coaching gig while D'Antoni is trying to turn dusty thrown out rugs into less-dusty thrown out rugs. Point being this -- this Nuggets team is way more vulnerable compared to the last, say, six years or so and the Lakers have a crack at reaching the .500 mark with a win.

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