Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets are running out of time to get back up to speed in time for the playoffs. Denver just got starting point guard Jamal Murray back, but will still be without Gary Harris and Will Barton. The Lakers are healthy, but still tinkering with their rotation amid a 2-4 start to their Disney experience. Both teams can afford losses right now, but if they can’t find their rhythm in time for the playoffs, their strong pre-pandemic runs will mean nothing.
The Lakers got the better of the Nuggets in the two healthy games these teams played against one another during the original season. Denver stole a win with LeBron James out in a December matchup. That previous success suggests a matchup that the Lakers can take advantage of tonight, but Murray looked like his old self in his debut Saturday. If the Lakers are going to right the ship tonight, they’re going to have to earn it. Here’s how you can tune into tonight’s marquee matchup.
How to watch
- Date: Monday, Aug. 10 | 9:00 p.m. ET
- Location: Disney Wide World of Sports — Orlando, Florida
- TV: TNT
- Odds: Lakers -5 | O/U: 223
Lakers: We’re two games away from the playoffs and have no idea who the Lakers are actually going to put on the floor. The new starting lineup with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in place of Avery Bradley has been terrible. JaVale McGee has had a negative point-differential in all five of the Disney games he’s played in. Quinn Cook and Talen Horton-Tucker, who spent all season on the bench and in the G-League, respectively, are getting long looks for rotation spots in the playoffs. Eventually, Frank Vogel is going to have to settle on his top eight or nine guys. Right now? Practically everyone is in play.
Nuggets: Welcome back, Jamal Murray. The return of Denver’s nominal second option has created some thorny hierarchy issues. Michael Porter Jr., averaging over 29 points per game over his last four outings, has grabbed the reins as Denver’s leading scorer. He’s benefitting from many of the same passes off of cuts that Murray has feasted on in the past. Things are only going to get more complicated when the Nuggets have their full roster back. The Nuggets are more talented than ever, but don’t have much time to meld their new weapon in with the group that already existed.
The Lakers have played most of their seeding games at half-speed. While their best players have actually played well in spots, their workloads are down and Vogel’s odd handling of the rotation has made it difficult for anyone to find a rhythm. Their shooting could rise back up to the mean at any time, but until the Lakers prove that they are taking these games seriously, it’s hard to give them five points in a matchup against a Denver team that looks more dangerous than ever with Porter as a budding star. The Lakers would be the pick in a playoff setting, but Denver has the edge tonight with the Lakers limping into the postseason. Nuggets +5