The Denver Nuggets’ undefeated start is no more, as the Los Angeles Lakers got off to their first winning streak of the season. L.A. had been right there in a few games, so coming through for the win behind a group effort was pretty impressive.
Both teams seemed to really do their homework on each other. Michael Malone had Denver focusing on getting back in transition, where the Lakers have gotten most of their production this season. For the Lakers, Luke Walton had them ignoring Torrey Craig offensively, so as to help elsewhere around the court. As this is (kind of) the third time they’ve played each other (having played twice in the preseason), it makes sense each side would be ready for what the other side had to throw at them.
Individually, the game’s standouts started with LeBron James (as one would probably predict). He finished the game with his first triple double as a Laker: 28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and 3 steals. He’s still struggling behind the line, and given how few other shooters the Lakers brought into this season, that’s had quite the impact on the half-court offense. Still, having the best player in the game is nice in close contests like this.
Lonzo Ball had a very Lonzo Ball kind of game, dropping 12 points with 6 rebounds and 8 assists on 5-10 shooting, though he was significantly better in the second half compared to the first. He’s still doing that weird thing where he hesitates on wide open 3-pointers, which is a pretty annoying trend given the way he’s been shooting thus far, so hopefully he stops sooner rather than later.
As nice as it would be to see Ball in the starting lineup even when Rajon Rondo comes back, it’s hard to see Walton making that change permanently just off the three games we’ve seen while Rondo has been suspended. It’s going to be interesting to see how Walton handles this, as the Lakers have gone 2-1 over this three-game stretch.
Lance Stephenson had his second straight solid game, though like Ball, was significantly better in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter, when two straight threes and his infectious energy brought the Lakers back into a great position for LeBron’s return to the game.
When James returned, L.A. went on a late run to create some separation, but given how that Spurs game went, it’s still hard to feel comfortable about any late lead in single digits with this group. This time they pulled it out though, and that’s all that matters as they move to 2-3 and one step closer to .500.
The Lakers have one day off to rest up, then get right back to it as they’ll travel to San Antonio to play the Spurs on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.