The Los Angeles Lakers are mere hours away from taking on the Nuggets in Denver and, based off of his analysis of his opponent, it certainly appears Nuggets Head Coach Michael Malone isn’t taking L.A. lightly at all.
Malone was asked about the prospect of coaching against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the roster that has vaulted the Lakers to the top of the conference at this (albeit early) stage of the season. Based on his response, he has a pretty high level of respect for the star-laden team he’ll take on later tonight:
Coach Malone when asked about the Lakers being in town and the two best teams in the West facing off tomorrow night said the Lakers are “on a whole nother level. They’re the best team in the West.”— Katy Winge (@katywinge) December 2, 2019
Top 5 in both o/d, Lakers beat teams in the paint, in transition, on the glass.
Denver presents an interesting set of issues for the Lakers. They offer the size that usually gives even Davis and James some problems with Nikola Jokic and whichever Plumlee they employ, but also can stretch the Lakers extremely thin defensively given how effectively they shoot the ball — which was a problem against Dallas the other night.
It’s that combination of size and skill that has lifted Denver to the second-best record in the Western Conference, just two and a half games behind L.A. despite having played a much tougher schedule to this point.
As Malone indicates, though, the Lakers won’t be an easy matchup for Denver, either.
Denver doesn’t really have a wing defender to throw at James on its roster. Granted, almost no team really does — especially given how well he’s played thus far this season. But James is uniquely tough for Denver to guard. They’ll likely throw Paul Millsap at him for most of the game, but that risks putting one of their best players in foul trouble, or seriously fatiguing him over the course of the game.
As Malone says, though, it’s a really fun matchup all the way around between two of the league’s legitimate title contenders. It’s likely going to be some kind of playoffs preview, too, given what both teams have set as their goals this season. And, as Malone points out, this could likely be a look ahead to which team comes out of the conference in June.
The Lakers and Nuggets will tip at 6:00 p.m. PST in Pepsi Center, and the game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.