For the second straight year, the Lakers will have the chance to ruin the defending champions’ ring night ceremony as the NBA regular season commences on Tuesday.
This year, it’ll be against the Denver Nuggets, the team that swept them in the playoffs five months ago. It’s an opportunity for the Lakers to start their season with a statement victory.
Start time and TV schedule
Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
When: 4:30 p.m. PT, Tuesday, Oct. 24
Where: Ball Arena; Denver, Co.
Watch: TNT, Spectrum Sportsnet
Aside from going up against the defending champions, the Lakers will also try to finally snap their ongoing opening night losing streak. Believe it or not, they haven’t won a game on opening night since 2016 and they’re 0-5 in those since LeBron James arrived in Los Angeles.
It’s only right that the Lakers could finally end their opening night losing streak against the Nuggets this year in what will be one of the most special nights in Nuggets franchise history. For the Lakers, this ring night ceremony should remind them of their bittersweet playoff run last season. It should also motivate them to attack the season strong and prove that they’re capable of reclaiming the Larry O’Brien trophy this season.
And speaking of last season, these two teams haven’t stopped throwing shots at each other since they faced off in the Western Conference finals. Back in June during the Nuggets championship parade, Denver head coach Michael Malone was referred to as the “Lakers daddy” — which didn’t sit well with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Darvin Ham.
Mike Malone is funny dude will rub it on the lakers as much as he can. Respect the hustle pic.twitter.com/zVIt6LxL7N— Nicole Ganglani (@nicoleganglani) June 4, 2023
“In these playoffs he became the Lakers daddy.”— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) June 15, 2023
The Nuggets and Mike Malone continue to troll the Lakers pic.twitter.com/Wh6VM88Wbk
Then, when Davis and James told reporters during media day that they can’t wait to play the Nuggets on opening night, Malone questioned why these two superstars can’t stop talking about Denver.
It’s been that kind of a back-and-forth between these two teams and given the NBA’s penchant for dramatic storylines like this, it’s not a surprise that they decided to feature the Lakers and Nuggets for the season opener.
But outside the drama and beef building between these two teams, there are more important takeaways to look out for in this one. Yes, it’s the first one out of 82 games — and this team now most likely won’t look the same by the end of the season — but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from this match.
Here are two things to look out for in the Lakers’ first game of the season:
How does this Lakers team match up against the Nuggets?
One way Rob Pelinka and co. responded to getting swept in the conference finals was by constructing a roster this summer with more depth, height and continuity. These were the ingredients the team significantly lacked in the series against Denver and a huge reason why they lost. That’s why it’s going to be interesting to see how this reconstructed Lakers team matches up against arguably the best starting five in the league.
One of the things worth looking out for is how the Lakers manage to defend the Nuggets’ imposing frontcourt. Will they be able to keep up with the Nuggets’ physicality? Will Davis be tasked to cover Nikola Jokic or be more effective as a roamer once again? Do the Lakers have enough perimeter defense to contain Denver’s potent guard depth? Can the Lakers’ bench provide a much-needed scoring boost? We’ll learn on Tuesday.
How will the Lakers really approach this game?
It’s one thing for James and Davis to say that they can’t wait to play the Nuggets on opening night and another to actually show up and lead the team to victory. What will be worth noting is how the co-captains set the tone as early as the first game of the season. Will the Lakers approach this one as if it's a playoff game? Or will they ease into the game? More importantly, how determined are they to really beat Denver?
As early as the first game of the season, it would be nice to see some improvements in the Lakers’ transition defense, rebounding and shooting performance, three of their weaknesses during the series against Denver. There’s no better time to start building and practicing those good habits as early as the first day of the NBA season.
That said, Tuesday’s game will be one of the few times in franchise history where the Lakers are on the opposing end, witnessing their competitors claim their championship rings and hang their banner. With another opportunity to ruin a ring night, it’s only fitting that the Lakers do it to the Nuggets this time around.
Notes and Updates:
- Since we’re talking about the first game of the season, here’s a fun fact: The Lakers are 43-32 in season openers in franchise history. Despite losing on opening night for seven straight years in a row now, they still have a winning track record in this regard. Hopefully, this improves as well on Tuesday.
- Everyone’s pretty much healthy for the Lakers except Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel soreness). The forward has been sidelined since the Lakers’ first preseason game and is currently listed as day-to-day.
- The status of rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino (knee) also remains unclear but according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, there will be an update on his health status on Monday.
- Same goes with the Nuggets, who are all healthy as Michael Porter Jr., (ankle) and Christian Braun (calf) are expected to suit up for the season opener.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani