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Will Barton, Nuggets edge Lakers, improve to 2-0 in preseason

T.J. McBride Avatar
October 8, 2016

 

After defeating the Toronto Raptors Monday night, the Denver Nuggets rallied back from an eight-point forth quarter deficit to top the Los Angeles Lakers 101-97 at STAPLES Center. The Nuggets (2-0) trailed for the majority of the game until the combination of Robbie Hummel, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jamal Murray and Jarnell Stokes brought Denver back in the fourth quarter. Down two with three minutes left, Hernangomez nailed a 3-pointer that put the Nuggets ahead for good.

WHERE/WHEN

STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California | Oct. 7, 2016 | Preseason game No. 2

Will Barton makes his case as an opening night starter

In the wake of Gary Harris partially tearing his right groin it was Barton who stepped into the starting lineup and produced immediately. He was highly active on both ends of the floor and scoring in every way imaginable tonight. Barton finished with 20 points on 6-14 shooting, ten of which came in the third quarter. As was the case last season, it was Barton’s scoring that kept the Nuggets afloat throughout the third quarter.

Barton has not been shy when asked if he sees himself as a starter. Finding a way into the starting lineup has been a goal of his and he feels he is ready to step into the starting shooting guard spot. Tonight he reinforced those words with his play. There was no one on the floor as active as Barton on either team and he single-handily kept the Nuggets from getting blown out by a very young Lakers team.

It seems after tonight that Barton will continue to start at the shooting guard position until Harris is healthy. Now is Barton’s time to prove that he can be a starter in the NBA.

Wilson Chandler is shaking off the rust.

Chandler had himself a solid night with Danilo Gallinari resting. Chandler needed a game where he could play relaxed and intuitive basketball and having the task of guarding either Metta World Peace or Brandon Ingram was a welcomed sight. Chandler had 15 points on 5-12 shooting and looked significantly more comfortable than Monday night in Calgary. Add in eight rebounds and three assists with no turnovers and Chandler, outside of only hitting 1-6 from beyond the arc, looked much better tonight.

Being that Chandler has played less then an entire season combined in the past three years, it makes sense that there’s rust he needs to shed. What is great to see is that Chandler’s mindset has not changed. When players deal with devastating injuries it is just as hard to come back mentally as it is physically. To see Chandler playing in the same capacity as he did three years ago is a welcomed sight and means that easing him back into the rotation should be a smooth transition.

Emmanuel Mudiay still has a way to go.

After making his first two shots, Muiday finished the night 0-8 from the field and did not score from the six minute mark of the first quarter on, while committing careless turnover after careless turnover. To say that this was not Mudiay’s night would be an understatement. Whether or not this is an issue Mudiay can fix himself is something we’ll figure out over the course of this season.

What we know is that most of the issues that plagued him during his rookie year are still present. Mudiay still struggles with his jump shot and his shot selection still leaves much to be desired. When it comes to finishing at the rim he continued to miss easy baskets.

Defensively is where Mudiay struggled the most. Luke Walton ran D’Angelo Russell through mazes of screens without much resistance from Mudiay. The Laker point guard scored 21 points on 7-14 shooting, five assists, four rebounds and roasted the second-year point guard all game.

A lot has been made of how hard Mudiay has worked this offseason. The strides he could make this year are great, but it may also be time to back off the throttle and remember this is a point guard who is only 20-years-old with one year of NBA experience. The point guard position is the most difficult to learn and usually takes the longest to master. Mudiay still has the tools to be a top-10 point guard in the league but it may take slightly longer than originally thought for him to get there.

The “Jurkic” lineup strikes again.

While it made sense to start a super-sized lineup against the Raptors, the Lakers presented a much different look than their starting five. Tonight, Jurkic produced 26 points, 24 rebounds, five assists, eight steals and two blocks. While there were ups and downs it seems that the idea of starting the two together is sound and isn’t going away.

Having an intimidating presence like Nurkic defending the paint is a huge step forward for a team that lacked rim protection. Nurkic, while technically recording only one block tonight, turned away far more shots than that. He was the imposing interior threat that the Nuggets had always hoped he would be while only fouling twice. Tonight was another step forward for Nurkic’s individual defense.

The chemistry between Jokic and Nurkic, on the offensive end, cannot be overstated. Having two big men who can start together or play by themselves, who can both pass, shoot, handle the ball, rebound and play with an above average basketball IQ is as rare as it gets. They can play off of each other or play independently. The combination, while large, does not have issues pushing the ball in transition thanks to their ability to pass the ball ahead with velocity and precision.

While Malone may elect to bring Nurkic off the bench at times, it eases the spacing issues and does seem like the Nuggets are really liking what they are seeing from “Balkan Buddy Ball.”

STAR OF THE GAME FOR NUGGETS

It’s hard to imagine where the Nuggets would have been tonight without Will Barton tonight – we said this a lot last season as well. Barton scored 20 points in 31 minutes, ten of which came in the third quarter.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Nurkic throws it down

Jamal Murray makes it rain

Will Barton’s and-1

Barton from deep

Malik Beasley continues to show his stroke

Boxscore

screenshot

WHAT’S NEXT

The Nuggets are staying the weekend in Los Angeles and take on the Lakers again Sunday before traveling to Nebraska for a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Denver’s first home game is Friday Oct. 14 when the Nuggets host the Golden State Warriors.

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