Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the Lakers (4-5) and their Wednesday evening opponent, the Denver Nuggets (2-4):
- Ty Lawson leads Denver in scoring (21.7 points, T-13th in NBA), assists (7.3, T-10th), minutes (36.9), three’s made (10 total, tied with Randy Foye), free throws made (34, 81.0 percent) and steals (1.3, also tied with Foye). No other Nugget is averaging more than 10.3 points per night (Jordan Hamilton).
- Wilson Chandler has not played this season, but is listed as a game-time decision with his hamstring strain and could make his debut. He was one of Denver’s three best players not named Ty Lawson last season who’s either been hurt (Danilo Gallinari, torn ACL) or changed teams (Andre Iguodala). If he doesn’t play, Jordan Hamilton should get more SF minutes (he started the last two games and had career highs of 19 points and nine boards at Phoenix on 11/8.)
- JaVale McGee is out indefinitely with a left tibia stress fracture; Timofey Mozgov is the likely starter in his place unless coach Brian Shaw goes with J.J. Hickson.
- The Nuggets rank just 11th in the NBA in fast break points (15.5 per game), and 13th in points in the paint (42.2). That’s quite a difference from last year, when they led the NBA in FB points (19.7 per game) and also points in the paint at 57.3 a contest. New coach Brian Shaw is trying to establish them as more of a balanced team that can post up, which is going to take some time.
- Denver owns the second best home court record in the NBA since 2007-08 at 191-49 (.796), trailing only San Antonio’s 187-47 (.799). The Lakers are third at 182-52 (77.8%).
- Kenneth Faried broke out of a slow start to the early-season (in part minutes related) with 15 points and 13 boards in Monday’s win at Utah.
THE (DREADED) SECOND NIGHT OF A BACK-TO-BACK IN DENVER:
The Lakers are 16-16 (.500) all-time when playing at Denver in the second of a back-to-back, which is actually pretty surprisingly good, because all-time, teams are just 160-376 (.299) when playing in the mile-high city in the second of a back-to-back.
This is less surprising: Since the 2003-04 season, the Lakers are 1-7 (.125) when playing at Denver in the second of a back-to-back. The combined league record since 2003-04 when playing at Denver in the second of a back-to-back is 27-118 (.186)
In related news: the Nuggets were a much better team, overall, after 2003-04 (when Carmelo was drafted) than prior to that time.
YOUR 2013-14 LAL LEADING SCORER IS … JODIE MEEKS?
Perhaps nobody has improved his game more this season from last than Jodie Meeks, who scored 15 more points on Tuesday on 5-of-7 FG’s (3-of-5 3’s) with three boards and a steal in LAL’s 116-95 W over New Orleans. As such, he improved to 13.0 ppg on the season, which leads the Lakers through nine games, thanks to 52.6% FG’s and 47.6% from three.
The Kentucky product is currently seventh in the NBA in adjusted field goal percentage (where three’s weigh more heavily than two’s) at 65.8% and eighth in true shooting percentage at 69.0%.
BLAKE CONTINUES STRONG PLAY
Steve Blake came into the game vs. New Orleans averaging 15.3 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds on 50.0% FG’s (16/32), 61.1% 3-PT FG’s (11/18) in his previous three contests, and while he took only four shots (making one, a triple) against the Pelicans, he led the Lakers with 10 assists to just two turnovers in a solid floor game. He was consistently setting up Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol inside and Meeks outside, setting the tone for good ball movement all evening (33 assists on 44 field goals for the team).
Of Blake’s 29 field goals made this season, 22 have been 3-pointers. He ranks 5th in the NBA with the 22 makes, trailing only Damian Lillard (25), Kevin Martin (24), Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (24) apiece. Below is a shot chart of his efficiency from three-point range, courtesy of NBA.com/stats.
“FLUCTUATION” THE OPERATIVE WORD FOR LAL’s LINE UPS
Through nine games, the Lakers have utilized six different starting lineups, and nine different players have started a game. With Nash out, we saw what may be a regular rotation for a few weeks:
Starters: Blake, Meeks, Johnson, Hill and Gasol
Bench: Farmar, Henry, Young, Williams and Kaman
Williams only played about 13 minutes against New Orleans, however, as Hill and Wesley Johnson may get some of those reserve minutes at the four spot.
D’Antoni would like to establish an identity ASAP, as he said at practice on Monday: “One thing we have to do is find our identity. We don’t play slow or fast, we don’t do anything with a purpose and we’re trying to get that. We’re trying to clarify what playing hard means because sometimes I misconstrue that in the press. Being able to anticipate what’s happening, being mentally alert. They’re all trying but a lot of time they’re one step or two steps behind because we didn’t anticipate or get to a spot. We need to get there to be able to benefit from playing hard. It’s not a character issue, it’s a matter of an execution thing.”
BOMBING FROM THREE CONTINUES:
For the second time this season, the Lakers hit over 50% of their three-pointers, sinking 11 of 20 against New Orleans to improve to 40.9% on the season, good for 7th in the NBA. They’re making 10.4 per game, good for 3rd in the league (Washington and Golden State rank 1st and 2nd, respectively). The Nuggets shoot the three well also. Though they make only 7.8 (13th), they’re hitting 40.5%, just behind the Lakers for 8th.
Steve Blake leads the Lakers at 48.9%, with Jodie Meeks close behind at 47.6%, the starting backcourt getting the job done. Xavier Henry is up to 44% after sinking all three of his triples against the Pelicans.
HENRY SNAPS HIS SLUMP IN STYLE
Tuesday night was a much-needed boost for Xavier Henry, who put up 15 points on 6-of-8 field goals and 3-of-3 three-pointers plus three steals to break out of a four-game slump. In the previous four, he’d really struggled, both by the eye test and the numbers: 4.0 PPG, 6-of-26 FG’s (23%), 0-for-4 threes, 11 rebounds (season-high 8 vs. MIN). Meanwhile, his monster jam over University of Kansas teammate Jeff Withey was ridiculous, and had Staples Center rocking.
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