The Lakers preseason rolls on Tuesday and their opponent is…the Denver Nuggets. Yes, those same Denver Nuggets who beat them 124-107 on Sunday. The same Denver Nuggets who are looking to make the same jump as the Lakers from outside to in the playoff mix this year. The same Nuggets who are a beast on offense and will test the Lakers defense on multiple levels.
Enough about the Nuggets, though. They are a good team that will be dangerous this year. This is known. The Lakers, however, are a work in progress. And whatever first impressions we have from Sundays game, can be adjusted and reevaluated based on today’s game. It’s the preseason, after all. The things we think we learn are by no means final verdicts and it’s important to know that this team is trying to build towards something, not tweak what is already built.
With that, a few things I’ll be watching for tonight:
- How much will LeBron play and how hard will he go while he’s in there? If form holds from Sunday, expect two shifts from LeBron in the 1st half and none in the 2nd half. He’ll probably play about half speed and look to be more of a setup man than a scorer.
- With Lonzo out, who will be the backup PG? On Sunday, it looked like Lance Stephenson and Brandon Ingram sort of split those duties. If that continues, I’d like to see Lance be a bit more ball move-y and Ingram continue to be an active playmaker — especially on drive and kicks to shooters around the arc.
- Will the Lakers switch more defensively? On Sunday, they did not employ this tactic as much as expected and I thought it led to defensive breakdowns. Maybe this team won’t be the type of switch-everything team we thought. I think a second game vs. the same opponent may offer some clues on the direction they’ll go on that end.
- Can the Lakers play with good pace again? Sunday’s game was played at a pace of 109.1 — which is nearly 7 full possessions higher than the league leader for last season. Of course, Sunday’s single game sample should be taken as the standard for what the Lakers will do all year and playing the Nuggets — who also play very fast — boosts this number. But it’s clear the Lakers want to run and, even though they’re not quite in shape yet, I’m interested in seeing how they hold up today.
- Make some shots, KCP.
- We will see more Kuzma at C. Let’s see how it goes, but I think the Nuggets are a nice reminder of what playing backup C can be like. Denver will throw guys like Millsap and whichever-Plumlee-is-on-the-Nuggets at you with their bench units and both of those guys can play. And that’s after throwing Nikola Jokic at you as the starter. These guys all present unique challenges and you need a diverse skill set to manage all of them defensively. Like I said, let’s see how it goes for Kuz.
- More Josh Hart, please. I don’t mean minutes, I mean in terms of being involved. Hart sort of just floated around out there on Sunday, not getting a lot of kickout passes or many DHO opportunities to turn the corner for drives into the paint. I’d like to see him used a bit more.
- Look alive, Zubac. On Sunday, you didn’t and I’m not sure how many more chances you’ll get with Beasley lurking for backup minutes at the 5 after Kuzma will already get some of those too.
- Can Rondo get 10 more assists?
- Close out hard on shooters and make guys drive and/or pull up for mid-range shots defensively. This did not happen on Sunday, it needs to change.
Lastly, and I’ll probably say this every preseason game, as a fan, try to have fun. The NBA season is long enough as it is. No need to make it longer by getting too invested in preseason results.