Los Angeles, CA — With Kobe Bryant in attendance, LeBron James dropped a triple-double and propelled the Los Angeles Lakers (2-3) to their second straight victory. The Lakers defeated the Denver Nuggets (4-1), 121-114.
This was a battle between two teams that were no strangers to each other having faced each other during the preseason. Denver came into the contest as one of five unbeaten teams in the league and was off to their best start since 2009-2010. Los Angeles was coming off their first win of the season against the Phoenix Suns and were looking to make it two in a row coming into Staples Center.
Both teams love to run the ball, pushing the pace as much as they could. The fast-paced style was on display throughout the contest Thursday night.
In the first quarter, Denver and Los Angeles played an up-tempo style of play but neither team could take the early advantage in the period. The Nuggets would finish the quarter having scored 20 points in the paint and were led by the backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Murray and Harris combined for 10 first-quarter points and Denver would take an early four-point lead, 26-22.
What you have to love if you’re a Nuggets fan is how deep this team is. Denver goes about nine deep and can get scoring in a multitude of ways and are a great defensive team. However, in the second frame, the Lakers would begin to turn it on.
Although Denver went on a 10-2 run in the quarter, Los Angeles responded with an 11-4 run of their own. The Lakers would have 13 steals in the ballgame and six of those would come in the first half. LA did a great job grabbing multiple steals throughout the period and having those steals turn into easy baskets at the other end as they had 12 points off eight Denver turnovers in the first half. The period would be capped off by a Kyle Kuzma three-pointer as time expired, giving the Lakers a much-needed boost going into the break and a 58-57 halftime lead.
As you begin to look at this new Laker lineup with the absences of Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram due to suspension, the rotations seem to be a lot smoother and the pace of the team seems to be a lot faster. Kuzma is a budding star in the league and he continues to play as if he has something to prove. Josh Hart continues to show that he belongs on this roster and has made the most out of his two starts this year and Lonzo Ball, who is coming off of an injury, is playing with a little extra fire. You have to wonder, is this the lineup that Luke Walton will keep on the floor even when his two key players return?
Los Angeles’ is the sixth youngest team in the NBA and many believe that the youth of the Laker ball club is what attracted James joining the team in the first place. In addition, although they have a 2-3 record, you have to enjoy that the young players have played extremely hard in the first four games of the season.
In the second half, the game was a great back and forth affair between both teams, led by their respective franchise players. Nikola Jokic would begin to go to work in the third period for the Nuggets finishing the game with his fourth consecutive double-double (24 points, 11 rebounds) and got added help from Murray who would finish the game with a double-double of his own (22 points, 10 rebounds).
However, Los Angeles began to make a surge in the period that was led by James, who finished the quarter with a near triple-double (20 points, eight rebounds, nine assists). Yet, James wasn’t the only one that created for the Lakers in the quarter. Ball also contributed and stuffed the entire stat sheet in the ball game (12 points, six rebounds, eight assists and five steals). Kuzma would tally 22 points of his own and JaVale McGee was everywhere on the floor for the Lakers, catching and throwing down lobs and being active on the glass.
James finished the game with a triple-double in the contest (28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) and he was absolutely sensational. He found open teammates, knew when to be aggressive and take the ball himself, and was a wizard in the fast break. Although some of the on-target passes he made were missed by his teammates, expect those to drop as the season goes on.
However, can James keep this up?
Remember, he had the season of his life last year and joined a Lakers team where not only are they trying to run for 48 minutes but aren’t a team where James can take plays off. You hope James can continue giving signature performances like this but doesn’t burn out on the flip side. In addition, there isn’t any need for the Lakers to panic and make any dramatic changes to the team following the slow start.
This team, as well as James, will have to trust the process and understand that it’s a long season and putting a string of games together where they can gain confidence as a unit, will only help the team chemistry and equate to more wins.
Los Angeles defeated the Nuggets, 121-114 and scored 121 points against a Denver team that came into Staples Center number one in defensive rating and number two in points allowed. However, Denver is a deep team and still aren’t even at full strength yet. Some believe the Nuggets may be the second best team in the Western Conference behind Golden State.
Los Angeles still has a lot to figure out. The biggest thing is finding a way to answer their three-point discrepancy as they finished the game shooting only 34 percent from distance. The season is long and the Lakers have to be happy that they’ve put a couple wins together and hope to continue their winning ways.
The Lakers will be on the road to face San Antonio on Oct. 27. On the opposing end, the Nuggets will look to get back to their winning ways as they’ll face the New Orleans Pelicans at home on Oct. 29.