Heading into any game between the Lakers and Nuggets, the first note for the foreseeable future should be about the young guards on each side. Unfortunately for fans tonight, though, it looks like Emmanuel Mudiay is a scratch for tonight’s game with a sprained ankle.
As I was writing that last bit, the shift in attention struck me. For the better part of the last two decades, the first question heading into any Lakers game was who might be matched up against Kobe Bryant so long as he’s healthy. By all accounts, he is “definitely” playing tonight. So it struck me as odd that he wouldn’t be the first aspect of a Lakers game in this, his final season.
Also inactive for tonight is Danilo Gallinari, who would’ve seen time against Julius Randle, which would’ve been fun for either side on the offensive end. Instead, one would imagine we’ll see more extended stretches of Randle against Kenneth Faried, as both try to find out who can run into the other with the most force.
This feels like a winnable game, which is something you can rarely – if ever – say with these Lakers.
On Twitter, the talk has been about fit at times with Mike Malone’s handling of the Nuggets, something any Lakers fan can relate to. Might we see another Sam Mitchell – Byron Scott situation, where the winning team only manages to do so because the losing team is better at losing? Probably, but games like that are typically entertaining in a sick humor kind of way.
- Contain Faried. In the last two games against the Lakers, he’s made 20 of his 27 attempted shots. That’s pretty impressive. Like we said earlier, whether it’s Randle or Larry Nance, Jr. matched up against him, they’ll need to be more successful than they have been.
- Consistency – or something close to it. One of, if not the most frustrating thing about watching this Lakers team play is how they’ll go through stretches where you actually realize, “hey, it looks like they know what they’re doing, kind of,” only to watch minutes later as anything that was watchable no longer remains as such. They’ve had a few days to prepare for this game, so that should lend itself to a decent gameplan.
- Get D’Angelo Russell back on Track. Russell went through a stretch of games where he looked really, really good and the bust talk was finally subsiding, only to see him shoot six-for-22 over his last two games (one-of-11 from three-point range). These peaks and valleys are par for the course with rookies, but it would still be nice to see him regain the form that had Lakers fans challenging those who claimed the front office made a mistake by taking him.
Winning in Denver is always tough, but the Nuggets have been struggling some and are not healthy, so the game should, at the very least, be competitive. Still, though, I don’t ever want to set myself up for the kind of screen-grabbing that takes place when I predict the Lakers actually win, let alone on the road.
Lakers lose 103-110.