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The Denver Nuggets have legitimate questions about their starting backcourt with Gary Harris recovering from a partially torn right groin that will likely keep him out to start the regular season. The same is not said for the Los Angeles Lakers, who showed in their 124-115 win over the Nuggets Sunday night that their backcourt made up of D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams is one of their biggest strengths.
Russell and Williams combined for 58 points on 62 percent shooting and blitzed Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Jamal Murray, and Malik Beasley for 48 minutes as the Lakers (2-1) handed the Nuggets (2-1) their first loss of the preseason.
The Lakers’ backcourt will dominate the headlines but Jusuf Nurkic one again owned the paint against the Los Angeles frontcourt. Nurkic finished with a team-high 21 points on 6-10 shooting and 16 rebounds. The 6-foot-11 big man also went 9-12 from the line and helped the Nuggets to out-rebound the Lakers 54-29 on the night.
With Will Barton (15 points, 7-13 shooting) starting for the injured Harris, all five of Denver’s starters finished with a positive (or even) +/-. However, the Nuggets bench did suffer. Juancho Hernangomez had a positive game offensively, pouring in 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds and Robbie Hummel reached double figures as well with ten points. But rookies Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley struggled tonight scoring a combined nine points on 15 shots. The two were also responsible for six of the Nuggets 20 turnovers.
Danilo Gallinari, who was quiet against the Raptors and Lakers Friday night, rebounded with a typical Gallinari-like stat line. The swingman scored 19 points on just five field goal attempts and went 11-12 from the free-throw line. Mudiay, who has received criticism for his struggles so far this preseason, had his best showing in three games scoring 14 points on 5-13 shooting and handing out seven assists in 24 minutes.
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, California | Oct. 9, 2016 | Preseason game No. 3
NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME
Nurkic one again stuffed the stat sheet for Denver tonight. The Bosnian finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds on an efficient 6-10 shooting. The 35 pounds Nurkic dropped this offseason shows and the big man looked to be in good shape while playing 31 minutes tonight.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Mudiay with the pretty reverse layup in transition
Barton keeps it smooth in the pick-and-roll
Mudiay’s strong and-1 from the post
Barton elevates over Brandon Ingram
Gallinari’s no-look to Faried
Hernangomez sends it in
Hernangomez pulls up from mid-range
BY THE NUMBERS
Tonight we saw Malone switch up his starting lineup and insert Faried who started 64 of the 67 games he played in last season. Malone likes what he’s seen from the “Jurkic” frontcourt but has been non-committal to if the Nuggets will start the season with those two up front. We’ll see what happens over the next couple of games, but the Nuggets will look to experiment with however many lineup combinations they can over the course of the preseason.
The Nuggets fly back to Denver for a couple days of practices before heading to Lincoln, Nebraska where they’ll take on the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday, Oct. 12 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Denver will then have a quick turnaround as they host the Golden State Warriors two days later at Pepsi Center in their first of two home games this preseason.