The Lakers ended their two-game losing streak last night after getting a pretty convincing home victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, pushing their record to 4-5, which isn’t bad at all for a team that’s been playing without their best player.
The main takeaway from last nights game was that Mike D’Antoni made another change in the starting lineup. Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson joined the first unit, and used their energy and athleticism to help this team be more effective on the defensive end. We should expect this to be the lineup for the foreseeable future, as Steve Nash is expected to miss at least two weeks of playing time due to lingering injuries in his body.
Tonight the Lakers will be in Denver, as they’ll look to win their second road game of the season against the Nuggets. As we’ve seen so far, the second night of a back-to-back hasn’t been the most favorable scenario for this Lakers team, and Denver is not an easy place to win on the road at all. According to NBA stats and research, NBA teams are a combined 160-376 (.299) when playing in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back, and since 2003, teams are 27-118 (.186).
Along with a good start (which hasn’t been a common trend for the Lakers this season), there a few other things that the Lakers are going to have to key on if they expect to beat the Nuggets:
Match Kenneth Faried’s Energy
It is no secret that Kenneth Faried has been a nightmare matchup for the Lakers since he came into the league. He’s one of the few players in the NBA that can alter the course of a game with his energy and effort, so it’s going to be key that a guy like Jordan Hill match his intensity, and not let him dominate the offensive glass.
The good news for the Lakers is that Mike D’Antoni has been very high on Hill lately, so we can expect him to be matched up with “The Manimal” a lot over the course of tonights game instead of Pau Gasol or Chris Kaman.
Knock Down Three-Pointers
The three-point line has been a very big part of every Laker win so far this season. Currently they shoot roughly around 41% from beyond the arc, ranking 7th in the NBA. As we’ve seen though, this team has the knack for getting trigger happy, so it’s going to be important for them to realize that attempting good threes (open or in the corners) is what they have do.
Ty Lawson is always a tough player to guard because of his ability to alter the pace of a game with his speed. Despite the fact that new Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw has been trying to incorporate a a half-court offense, he’s allowed his team to get out in transition in order to get easy baskets.
The Lakers must force the Nuggets to operate in the half-court, as they aren’t one of the most efficient teams in a half-court set(ranking 24th in offensive efficiency).
This Lakers team has been one of the hardest to evaluate in years. Some nights they look amazing, and others not so much. One thing that has been a constant though is that the new pieces have made this team fun to watch when they are rolling.
It’s important that we have no expectations for the outcomes of these games, as on some nights they tend to surprise us. Tonight can definitely be one of those nights.