It’s not often that teams get to play the same team in back to back games on the road, but when the Denver Nuggets take on the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night they’ll be doing just that. In fact, after starting off the preseason in San Diego, this game will mark the first of four games for the Nuggets at the Staples Center within the next 23 days.
Even with two of those match-ups being preseason games, they could be just what the Nuggets need to get acclimated towards performing well on the road early in the regular season. As you’ve likely already heard and will likely hear tonight, the Nuggets certainly look like a playoff team with the one concern being their road performance. In the last two seasons, which the Nuggets have missed the playoffs by one game, the team has had a 33-49 record away from home.
What’s special about tonight’s game is that it will be LeBron’s first game as a Laker at Staples Center, meaning the atmosphere will be especially electric. If you consider the possibility of last year’s Nuggets-Lakers hostilities to carry over to the 2018 preseason then that atmosphere could kick up another notch. Regardless, this is the road test that the Nuggets need to show they can play well.
While the starters may still not play their full rotation, Mike Malone has suggested that they will receive more than the roughly 20 minutes apiece that they received Sunday night. When the starters aren’t in all eyes will be back on the bench who showed out strong in the opener with multiple double digit performances and +/-‘s all above 27.
If there’s one point of emphasis tonight it will be on not coming out flat in the third quarter like we saw from the starters all throughout various points of last season and into the first preseason game this year.
Even without Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are a dynamic enough offensive duo that they should be capable of coming out of the halftime break with at least some semblance of urgency. If the Nuggets can play a “complete” preseason game tonight, from the first quarter at least through the third, then there should be no problem putting another check mark in the success column for the 2018-19 preseason so far.
Tonight’s game will be broadcast on TNT at 8:30 p.m. MDT in the Nuggets second consecutive nationally televised game (thank you LeBron James). With a win the Nuggets could improve to 2-0 in the preseason, completing the sweep of LeBron and the Lakers, for what that’s worth.