Mile High Basketball is back as the Nuggets prepare for their matchup in San Diego
The wait is over — NBA basketball is back in action tonight as the Denver Nuggets take on the Los Angeles Lakers in their first preseason game of the 2018-19 season. San Diego will be the site as LeBron James will make his debut in the purple and gold, leading the new-look Lakers on to the court for the first time.
The game tips at 7:30 p.m. MDT and will air on ESPN.
With a seemingly productive training camp in the rear view mirror, the Nuggets will hit the court for preseason action in what will likely be an electric atmosphere at the Valley View Casino in San Diego. As far as hype is concerned, a lot of eyeballs will be fixated on the game. However, this will still be a preseason game as both teams will look to stay healthy and continue installing their systems in live situations.
In an interview with Nuggets Insider Christopher Dempsey, Nuggets head coach Mike Malone discussed the importance of executing what the team worked on during practice.
“Can we transfer everything we’ve worked so hard on for the last five days and put it into a game situation?” Malone said. “And with their crowd. This place is probably going to be bonkers tonight because of LeBron James and all of that. But transferring and taking a step in the right direction with our defense. And then offensively not beating ourselves with turnovers. Usually first games in the preseason are a turnover-fest, very sloppy, teams are trying to do way too much. Hopefully we can go out there and execute with some poise.”
What To Watch For
It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets handle the crowd as they look to implement a new system this season, but they will be able to lean on continuity much more than the Lakers as a significant portion of the Lakers roster was overhauled in light of the LeBron addition.
As Malone mentioned, preseason action can see some haphazard play, but I am interested in seeing how Denver looks on both ends of the floor. Will the offense begin the season flowing as freely as it ended last season? Will the bench unit be able to develop an identity with Isaiah Thomas still recovering? Will a healthy Paul Millsap be adequate to ensure the Nuggets have a league-average defense? How does Will Barton look defending small forwards full time?
On the other side, all attention will be on one man: LeBron James. While the King may not spend a ton of time on the floor this evening, Lakers fans expect to witness the dawn of another era of greatness. Tonight will provide a first look at how high — or low — expectations should be. Of course, basketball is a team sport, so attention will be paid to the Lakers supporting cast of characters, however, LeBron’s debut will — and rightfully should — command the majority of attention.
Outside of Gary Harris, the starters should each play between 15 and 20 minutes. Harris will likely sit out due to a left hamstring strain. As expected, IT will also be out today as he nurses his hip back to full strength. One would assume the rookies Jarred Vanderbilt and Michael Porter Jr. remain on the bench as they recover from injuries as well.
After Malone mentioned potentially playing Trey Lyles at the three during media day, discussion around that possibility swirled. Behind Barton, the Nuggets will be looking for wing minutes from bench players like Lyles, Torrey Craig and (probably) either Juancho Hernangomez or Malik Beasley, but Lyles appears to have come into camp in the best shape of his life, and he appears ready to break out during his second season with the Nuggets.
With Thomas out, Monte Morris will likely begin the season as the team’s backup point guard, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the larger responsibility during preseason play. But with how well he played during Summer League in Las Vegas (17.5 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.3 rpg), I would not be surprised if he plays well enough to create an interesting situation when Thomas is back at full health.
I am most intrigued by the battle for backup minutes at the wing position, and my focus will remain fixated on whether Hernangomez or Beasley can earn consistent playing time with stellar performances or if Lyles will take a stranglehold on reserve minutes as Malone again experiments with the lineup. Whatever happens tonight will be exciting as we get to witness the Nuggets in game action for the first time since the heartbreaking overtime thriller that concluded last season.
While it may only be preseason, basketball is back! Let’s go Nuggets!