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Nuggets Battle Back in Second Half, Defeat Lakers for Second Time in Preseason
Los Angeles – It was a fitting end for a game riddled with miscues. With the clock ticking down and the Denver Nuggets clinging to a two-point lead, the Los Angeles Lakers needed a field goal to tie, a three to win and yet they failed to even get an attempt off resulting in a second-straight preseason win for the Nuggets, 113-111.
The Nuggets battled back from as much as a 18-point deficit in the second half. Much of the heavy lifting was done by the second unit which has been a strong point for the Nuggets through the first two preseason games. Mason Plumlee was a perfect 11-of-11 from the field on his way to a game-high 23 points. The Nuggets had four bench players in double digits with Malik Beasley tallying 15, while training camp signee Donald Sloan and Trey Lyles chipped in with 12 each.
“The group that was in at the end stepped up, made some big plays. Happy for those guys to close it out,” coach Michael Malone said.
Jamal Murray was ruled out just prior to tipoff and second year point guard Monte Morris stepped in to the starting point guard role. Morris was once again effective in his time on the floor, directing the Nuggets offense for 26 minutes.
“I thought he did a really good job, solid. That’s one thing about Monte, you always trust him. And I thought his backup tonight, I thought Donald Sloan actually played really well as well,” Malone said. Sloan took over the second unit and finished with 12 points and four assists.
In a first half marred by sloppy play the Nuggets found a bright spot in the performance of Nikola Jokić. The Nuggets repeatedly found Jokić on the block, resulting in a one-on-one scoring opportunity or forcing the Lakers to double which allowed Jokić to kick to teammates. Jokić scored 20 points and dished out four assists to go along with his six rebounds in just 22 minutes.
The Nuggets struggled to find a rhythm shooting in the first half, heading into halftime shooting just 2-of-15 from deep, one of which was a buzzer beater at the end of the half by Will Barton. The Lakers held an 11-point lead and pushed their advantage to as much as 23 before a run by the Nuggets bench brought the game back in check. A third quarter in which the Nuggets shot 5-of-8 from three followed by a fourth where they scorched the nets with a blistering 68 percent from the field helped the Nuggets take a late fourth quarter lead.
The Nuggets held on to that lead late in the fourth with steady play from a group of Sloan, Thomas Welsh, Tyler Lydon, Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez. Clutch threes by Beasley and Sloan helped the Nuggets hold off the Lakers in the final minutes.
The Nuggets will head back to Denver before taking on the Perth Wildcats of Australia at Pepsi Center on Friday.