Coming fresh off of their first win of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the undefeated Denver Nuggets on Thursday to try and put an end to their four-game, season-opening winning streak, and get their second win in a row.
The Lakers saw the Nuggets twice in the preseason and lost both times, but neither team was at full strength. Lonzo Ball and Gary Harris were both sidelined with injuries when the two sides met, and they’re expected to suit up and start on Thursday.
Head coach Luke Walton also didn’t play his starters heavy minutes in the preseason, namely LeBron James, who averaged just 15 minutes per game in their two matchups. Meanwhile, all of the Nuggets’ starters with the exception of Jamal Murray played more than 20 minutes per game.
Suffice to say we’ll be seeing two very different teams on Thursday. However, there will still be a few players absent for different reasons.
Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram are still serving their multi-game suspensions for the incident against the Houston Rockets, while the Nuggets will be without a starter in Will Barton.
Luckily, even with the names that will be unavailable, there will be no shortage of talent on the floor on Thursday.
The Lakers, of course, will have a well-rested James at their disposal. James played 28 minutes against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday and sat out the final few minutes of the fourth quarter.
Prior to tip off on Thursday, James will be honored with the Offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award presented by Kaiser Permanente for his involvement in creating the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.
Per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Kaiser Permanente and the NBA will donate $10,000 on James’ behalf to the LeBron James Family Foundation. Katsuya, a restaurant at L.A. LIVE, will also donate to James’ school for each “King XXIII” roll that is sold.
That is where the wholesomeness of this game will end.
These two teams showed that they don’t like each other last season. Jamal Murray especially became a player Lakers fans love to hate last season after he went out of his way to mock the Lakers in garbage time on two separate occasions. Here is the video from one of their last outings:
So yeah, there’s no love lost between these two sides.
The Lakers got the last laugh, beating the Nuggets in their final meeting of last season, but if they’re hoping to get a win on Thursday, they’re going to have to be smart with how they distribute minutes in the frontcourt.
The Nuggets have two All-Star caliber bigs in Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. Barring a last-minute free agent signing, the Lakers don’t have anyone that matches up well with their big man duo. They can always counter Denver’s size by going small, but they’ll have to keep up on the defensive end.
It’s doable, but it’s not going to be the cakewalk Phoenix was on Wednesday. Here’s to hoping Walton has a plan outside of just telling his team to try harder again.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
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