Are the Lakers playoff-ready? Five takeaways from win over Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers highlights.
“I don’t think we’re a 10,” James said. “And we shouldn’t be a 10. Because it’s a different type of preparation that goes into a playoff game. You spend hours and hours on teams because you know you’re going to be locked in with them for at least four games.”
The Lakers are still awaiting their first-round opponent and won’t know until possibly one or two days before the series starts. James said that it’s once a team has that opponent that they can truly focus their attention.
In the meantime, they are focusing on themselves.
Here are five observations from the Lakers’ 124-121 win over the Denver Nuggets.
1. Kyle Kuzma, whose mother was among the virtual fans, started for the Lakers in place of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who missed the game. Kuzma scored 25 points and shot 68.7% from the field (11 for 16), including three for five on threes. Kuzma said he’d been seeing increased trust from his teammates. Coming into the bubble, “they saw a different pep in my step, and from there, I just kept it going,” Kuzma said. “It feels good when your teammates trust you, and it’s definitely a little bit night and day from the first part of the season to now.”
2. Kuzma, who had the game-winning shot, remarked to reporters afterward that “Jesus could be in front of me” and he’d still shoot the ball. James laughed when relayed Kuzma’s line. He declined to give his reaction in words but was very complimentary of Kuzma. Although Kuzma feels that he’s just now earning his teammates’ trust, James says he already has it.
3. Alex Caruso went scoreless and took only one shot in his 20 minutes of playing time but had the best plus-minus rating of any Laker: plus-21.
Life inside the NBA’s closed environment in Orlando means constant surveillance and medical checks. And sometimes wine. Lots and lots of wine.
4. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak, the Lakers’ longest since dropping four in a row from Dec. 17 to 25. Denver didn’t play its full lineup, but the Lakers still felt they could take something from it. “We knew that wasn’t their finishing lineup, but we wanted to work on things that can help us get better,” Anthony Davis said. “It kind of gave us — it feels good to get a win again. Just trying to figure out things the past couple of games, and [we were] able to put a complete game together tonight and seal the victory. But no matter who’s on the floor, we want to make sure we’re doing the right things and playing Lakers basketball.”
5. The playoffs don’t start until Aug. 17, and next week the Lakers only have one game. Frank Vogel likes that because it means more time for practice. “I really am confident in this group,” the coach said. “Our defense slipped the last few games. I feel like we’ve been focusing so much on getting an offensive rhythm, working in new guys and whatnot. But I feel very confident that we can tighten the screws on the defensive end very quickly.”
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