The Nuggets played without four starters, yet looked just as potent in a 128-107 blowout of the Lakers on Wednesday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
It was a total team effort, led by Kenneth Faried’s 25 points. Faried missed only two shots all night, going 11-of-13 from the field and adding seven rebounds. Jamal Murray added 20 points, and Mason Plumlee had a near triple-double of 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. The Nuggets put up another huge number from the 3-point line, hitting a whopping 19 of them, 14 of which came in the first half alone, and shot 50 percent from the long distance. Murray had five 3-pointers and Juancho Hernangomez nailed four.
The Nuggets are now 3-0 in the preseason.
Yet, it is not the record that matters most. Evaluating players and lineups and smoothing any rough edges prior to the start of the regular season is the focus, and the Nuggets have improved each time out. With only five exhibition games this season – there were eight last year — each one has taken on added importance in taking steps to get the team ready.
Due to injuries and rest, the Nuggets played without Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Wilson Chandler and Nikola Jokić. The starting five of Murray, Will Barton, Hernangomez, Trey Lyles and Plumlee stepped right in and rolled through the Lakers early on, forcing missed shots on defense and playing efficiently on offense. Reserve players were also effective, and the Nuggets put up 45 points in the first quarter and 78s at halftime.
From there, it was about maintaining the lead and their edge. To the Nuggets credit, they did not let the Lakers ineffectiveness seep into their play and cause the game to get sloppy. They continued to execute, play sticky defense, and get the victory.
They shot 56 percent from the field overall and had 37 assists on 49 made buckets. Just one Laker – Kyle Kuzma (21) – scored more than 13 points in the game. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram were held out of the contest.
The Nuggets get three days off before their next exhibition game, on Sunday at San Antonio.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.