Lakers vs. Nuggets: Recap, Grades and Stock Watch

The Lakers took the floor attempting to earn their first win of the season tonight against the Denver Nuggets. This game featured a matchup between D’Angelo Russell and one of the other premier point guards from the draft, Emmanuel Mudiay. The game would also feature Julius Randle, as he attempted to follow up his impressive performance against the Dallas Mavericks.

First Half:

In the first quarter the Lakers got off to a strong start, with Julius Randle continuing his strong play. A couple of quick threes put the Lakers up early. The Lakers also showed much better defensive intensity to open the game, with the big men offering good challenges at the rim on most plays.

As the quarter went on the defensive intensity unfortunately faded, with Denver closing the deficit by attacking the rim. The Lakers bench unit played quite well, forcing the Nuggets into tough shots, and scoring fairly efficiently. Jordan Clarkson was especially strong throughout the first quarter, playing the entire period and scoring twelve points.

There was a scary moment with about four minutes left in the second quarter when Randle was poked in the eye and went to the locker room. The Lakers had serious issues containing Kenneth Faried in this half, as he had eighteen points and eight boards in the half.

The Lakers went into half-time down by three, despite very strong performances by Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. The Lakers continued their defensive struggles, despite flashes of strong play on that end.

Second Half:

The second half began with Randle returning to the game sporting a pair of protective goggles. The young players for the Lakers played great to start the quarter, with Russell, Randle, and Clarkson all making impressive plays. The Lakers, however, were never able to string enough stops together to actually close the gap. The Lakers ended the quarter down by ten, although the referees missed an obvious goal tend that would have made it an eight point game.

The Lakers returned to their bench to open the fourth, although Scott elected to use Tarik Black at the center. Much of the Lakers offense early in the quarter came from a trio of three-point shooting fouls, highlighting how effective Willams and Young can be at getting to the line. The Lakers came close several times in this quarter, but ultimately fell short due to their inability to get defensive stops.

Team Grades

Offense: C+

This grade is buoyed by the performances of Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, who looked unstoppable for parts of the game. Lou Williams also turned in an impressive offensive performance, getting to the line an astounding 19 times. Outside of that, the Lakers offense was marginally better than the last few games, but the overall shooting percentage of 41.9% and three point percentage of 23.1%  definitely left a lot to be desired. The offense still seems to rely heavily on isolation, despite the fact that the pick and roll with Clarkson has proven to be by far their most effective play.

Defense: D

The Lakers continued to allow teams to impose their will on them offensively. Against a team with no truly great offensive players, the Lakers still allowed 120 points for the game. Especially troubling is the fact that they let Kenneth Faried, who often struggles on the offensive end, score 28 points on 10-13 from the field. Los Angeles also allowed the Nuggets to shoot fifty percent from the field, a number which is very difficult to overcome.

Overall: D+

Despite great performances from Clarkson and Williams, the Lakers consistently trailed in a game they were expected to win. The Nuggets are a rebuilding team, who the Lakers should match up well against. The fact that the Lakers were unable to win this game is quite troubling, especially on the heels of losses to Minnesota and Dallas.

Stock Watch

Stock Up: Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson looked like the Lakers best player in this game, scoring effortlessly at times. After being an afterthought at times in the Lakers first three games, Clarkson was much more featured in the offense, and he responded fantastically. Scoring twenty points in the first half en route to a thirty point outing, Clarkson further cemented his status as a dangerous NBA scorer.

Stock Down: Ryan Kelly

After playing in the first half, Ryan Kelly was benched in favor of Tarik Black. Kelly has struggled to hit the three point jumper in his first few games, and apparently Scott felt that the defense of Black was more valuable than Kelly’s offensive contribution.

Stock Up: Lou Williams

In tonight’s game, Lou Williams played exactly the role the Lakers envisioned him in when they signed him. Scoring at will and reaching the line seemingly constantly, Williams provided an impressive scoring spark off the bench.

Stock Down: Byron Scott

After four losses to open the season, things are not looking good for the Lakers’ head coach. His rotations so far have been questionable at best, and for as much as he heralds himself as a defensive coach, the Lakers defense has looked consistently disjointed. With pressure from the front office to win games, Byron may see himself taking more of the blame as the season continues.

What did you think about the Lakers’ most recent loss to the Denver Nuggets? Let us know in the comments below.