(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)
Lakers vs. Nuggets: 3 Things to Know (11/18/17)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers host the Denver Nuggets.
1) Kyle Kuzma is legit
Just 16 games into his rookie career, Kyle Kuzma went from two points at halftime to 30 by the end of Friday night.
And though the Lakers fell to Phoenix Suns, Kuzma’s lights-out second half led him to reset his career-high in scoring for the second straight game.
Per usual, Kuzma was excellent in transition and attacking the paint.
But what made this game special was his ability to hit different kinds of shots.
Kuzma’s scoring quiver included spot-up 3-pointers, a lethal spin move, a runner and a few of his trusty hook shots. The end result was the highest scoring game by a rookie this season (and a 10-rebound double-double).
Kuzma’s (16.4 ppg) offensive outburst also led him to leapfrog Dennis Smith Jr. (15.2) for the second-best scoring average among rookies.
Another career night for Kyle Kuzma as he scored 30 points against Phoenix. pic.twitter.com/UEq05CFQ5X— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 18, 2017
2) Suddenly the Lakers’ defense needs tightening
The bad news for L.A. is that it has allowed an average of 116.5 opponent points in its past two games. The good news is that the Lakers are still ranked fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
The Lakers love to push the pace and started the year with success against opponents that did as well. Versus the other three fastest teams in the league, the Lakers began 3-0 but have now lost consecutive contests against Philadelphia and Phoenix.
The most obvious causes have been dynamic performances from Joel Embiid (46 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists) and Devin Booker (33 points, six 3-pointers) — two elite scorers who hit plenty of tough shots against the Lakers.
However, outside of that, L.A. can help its cause by limiting opportunities off turnovers (19 against Phoenix) and keeping its opponents off the foul line (30 free throw attempts by Philly).
Also, after allowing the Suns to hit 13 3-pointers on Friday, it is crucial for the Lakers to return to their airtight perimeter defense, having held their foes to the NBA’s lowest 3-point clip this year (31.3 percent).
3) Nuggets roll into L.A. with plenty of momentum
Tonight’s opponent is one that has spent the last five games proving its potency.
The Denver Nuggets have won four times over that stretch, including a 146-114 shellacking of New Orleans on Friday night.
The Nuggets were led by Jamal Murray, who dropped 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting as Denver racked up its most points in regulation in 10 years.
Along with Murray, the Lakers will have to try to contain Nikola Jokic — Denver’s do-it-all big man who ranks fifth in the NBA in rebounds (11.6) and second among centers in both assists (4.7) and steals (1.5).
Jokic also has a 41-point game on his resume this season, while the Nuggets boast scoring from other areas as well.
Four-time all-star Paul Millsap is a threat on both sides of the floor, Gary Harris is one of the NBA’s most efficient guards, and Emmanuel Mudiay has shockingly shot a team-best 47.4 percent on 3-pointers off the bench.
Lakers: Larry Nance Jr. (fractured second metacarpal, left hand) is out.
Nuggets: Mason Plumlee (core strain) is questionable.
Tip-Off: 6:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California