Final score: Lakers 121, Nuggets 114
Los Angeles Lakers
- It seems like the panic and overreactions from the season-opening three-game skid are gone now. That’s not two wins in a row for the Lakers, both without Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo in the lineup. This was their first home victory, and it came against a previously undefeated Nuggets team that had been playing as well as any in the league. Now everyone can settle down.
- OK, let’s not kid ourselves. Every Lakers game during the LeBron James era is going to be treated like a do-or-die playoff affair.
- LeBron posted his first triple-double as a Laker with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. He added three steals, but is still struggling from long range. LeBron made just 1-of-5 from three-point territory.
- JaVale McGee (21 points, 7 rebounds) picked up two goaltending violations in the first quarter. Not sure if he was intentionally doing the intimidation thing that Patrick Ewing did at Georgetown, but the Nuggets did miss a lot of close shots throughout the game so it may have worked.
- McGee has been using a Sky Hook lately that looks really good. Everyone’s hesitant to evoke the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but it’s hard not to think it given the uniform.
- Lance Stephenson (12 points) had the most Lance Stephenson stretch in the second half. On one possession he was flying around at 110 miles per hour, hustling for an offensive rebound and wildly creating a turnover with his out-of-control offense. A bit later, he looked as smooth as ever when he calmly used a crossover to set up a clutch step-back three.
- The Lakers are better when they shoot fewer three-pointers and set their minds to attack the basket. On this night, 29 of their 92 shot attempts were threes, and they also shot 23 free throws.
- Johnathan Williams is going to earn more and more minutes if he keeps hustling and playing hard. His game is reminiscent of Tristan Thompson back when Tristan was hungry.
- Lonzo Ball (12 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals) seemed unsure of himself, and coach Luke Walton seemed unsure of what to do with Lonzo, during L.A.’s first two games. But with Rondo out of the lineup serving his suspension, Lonzo has been able to play more point guard and do what he does best. He looked entirely comfortable, confident and in his element on Thursday.
- The Nuggets suffered their first loss of the season. They looked on their way to a 5-0 start before L.A. went on a 17-4 run sparked by an energetic Staples Center crowd. The Nuggets are going to be good and look like a playoff team, but they still have to learn how to close games consistently, especially on the road.
- Sometimes the Nuggets can over-pass and miss the opportunity for a good shot because they’re looking for an even better one. That may be a symptom of not having an established go-to guy whose mentality is to take over when a bucket is needed. Nikola Jokic is becoming that guy, but he’s not quite there yet.
- Jokic finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but he committed six turnovers (next to just three assists) and missed a lot of shots close to the basket that should’ve been easy.
- Jamal Murray (22 points, 8-17 FG) plays like he wants to be that go-to guy, but he can get a little too aggressive hunting his own shot.
- Paul Millsap is too good to only have six points in 29 minutes. He’s a recent All-Star and an elder statesmen on this young Denver squad. He should be more of a presence out there. Millsap had a chance to make a big defensive stop late in the fourth quarter, but LeBron just overpowered him to get an easy layup.