Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 97-88 loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers showed plenty of sloppiness. And we all thought the Lakers would hardly have trouble racking up points. Yet, the Lakers only shot 29.4 percent from the field. Wesley Johnson(1 of 5), Jodie Meeks (3 of 10) and Marcus Landry (3 of 10) appeared to be the main players forcing the issue. Jordan Hill (2 of 6) may have put a lot of work this offseason on his mid-range jumper, but it hasn’t translated yet in the preseason. The Lakers training camp invites made the game competitive in the fourth quarter, including Darius Johnson-Odom’s one handed dunk after driving through the lane. But it’s clear the Lakers have plenty of things to clean up in training camp.
2. Pau Gasol shows his worth as a featured big man even on a bad shooting night Finally, nothing could slow Gasol down. Troublesome knees, a reduced role and endless trade rumors suddenly evaporated. In his first appearance since the Lakers Game 4 sweep to the San Antonio Spurs, Gasol retook the featured big man role and posted 13 points on 4 of 13 shooting, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. Gasol seemingly did everything, including posting up inside and directing the offense from the elbow.
Not everything went according to script. Gasol’s poor clip featured plenty of quality looks that rimmed out or fell short. Gasol also understandably paced himself in his first preseason game. But Gasol went 13 games last season when he didn’t even reach double-digit attempts in an entire game. Should the Lakers follow this blueprint throughout the season, Gasol will deliver assuming he stays healthy.
3. Young showed his bad side. The Lakers will have to get used to this. For every game where he can’t seem to miss anything, Young will have games where nothing works. Against Denver, Young scored nine points on 4 of 16 shooting in 24 minutes, a product of him forcing the issue in a stagnant offense. Young also earned a technical foul in the third quarter. He showed some flashes in getting back on defense, but Young didn’t demonstrate that consistently. All in all, this hardly matches up to Young’s preseason debut Saturday where he scored 17 points, including 14 in the second quarter.
4. Steve Nash and Steve Blake were great passers The Lakers’ shots didn’t always fall. But Nash and Blake provided some great playmaking to give teammates some good looks. Nash threw a cross-court pass that set up dunks for Young and Gasol, as well as a nifty behind-the-back pass that gave Blake a wide-open three-pointer. Blake patiently ran pick-and-rolls and found teammates open inside, though many of them didn’t convert on the open chances.
Nash appeared to pace himself in his first game as he wants to ensure strong health, going to the locker room in the third quarter to stretch. Meanwhile, Blake played with full intensity. But both possessed strong court vision and team play, two integral ingredients needed this offseason for a strong offense.
5. Xavier Henry had another good outing Sometimes he forced the issue on his drives to the basket. But he still remained effective enough by scoring 14 points on 4 of 6 shooting and a 6 of 8 mark from the free-throw line. At times, it appeared Henry looked too intent to score a night after posting a career-high 29 points in the Lakers’ preseason opener. But Henry kept his aggressive level up well enough to produce.
Other notes Lakers center Chris Kaman sat out to rest after playing the team’s preseason opener Saturday against Golden State in Ontario. Lakers backup guard Jordan Farmar missed because of calf-cramps, though the team doesn’t consider it serious. Meanwhile, Lakers forward Wesley Johnson strained his left foot in first quarter, missed the rest of the game and will receive an MRI tomorrow. It’s currently unclear how serious Johnson’s injury will become.
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