By Christopher Dempsey, Nuggets Insider
On Monday night, the Nuggets play the first of two consecutive exhibition games against the L.A. Lakers as they continue on a near-weeklong road trip to start the preseason. Both games will be televised by Altitude Sports. What should you watch for out of the Nuggets in their first game against rookie Lonzo Ball and the new-look Lakers? Start with these four things.
Rim protection. The Nuggets aren’t expected to finish among the league leaders in blocked shots this season, but they’re going to want more rim protection than they showed against Golden State. They didn’t block any shots in that game, yet they have players capable of sending shots back in Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee, to name two. This doesn’t take into account shots that the Nuggets altered at the rim, and there were a few. On the flipside, the Lakers blocked six shots in their preseason opener, so the Nuggets will be tested on their ability to finish over athletic shot blockers.
Transition offense. The Nuggets finished with eight fast break points against Golden State, which is both a gift and an area to improve. The gift was they were able to be effective in half court offense. But pushing the pace and getting easy buckets is a main goal, so getting more opportunities on the break is a must. Overall, the Nuggets had 19 possessions in transition, and they turned those into 21 points, averaging over 1.1 points per possession, which is a nice foundation to start from. Still, the Nuggets are going to want a pace fast enough to average double-digits in fast break points, and this is the next opportunity to continue carving out that identity.
Emmanuel Mudiay’s shooting. The third-year veteran flashed an improved jump-shot in the Nuggets preseason opening win over Golden State, especially from deep where he made 3-of-4 shots from the 3-point line. What does he do for an encore against a Lakers team that is searching for a defensive identity of their own?
Out of bounds work. The Nuggets had six opportunities to run out of bounds plays on Saturday night at Golden State. They mostly kept it simple, with quick-hitting actions to get the ball in and immediately to the rim. Interestingly enough, Mudiay and Plumlee found quick chemistry on one sideline inbounds play the Nuggets ran multiple times. They worked a middle screen/roll and scored buckets twice – Mudiay hit a midrange jumper on one and he found Plumlee for a lob dunk on the other. Out of bounds plays can never be worked on enough, so if the Nuggets can get another half dozen at least, in particular more from the baseline where they got just one rep against Golden State, they’ll happily take it.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter