When coming into the 2015-2016 NBA season, many believed that the Los Angeles Lakers would be a very competitive team, one that would even have slim chances to compete for a playoff spot. Three games into the new season, and it’s been evident that this team is nowhere near what everyone anticipated them to be.
After just a one-point loss on opening night, the Lakers have looked apathetic, especially on the defensive end. An old-fashion blowout to the Sacramento Kings did not even light a fire under this team, as they came out flat against the Dallas Mavericks in their last game as well.
Julius Randle led the Lakers with 22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, and four steals against Dallas, but his efforts went to waste as the team lost its third consecutive game to start the season.
Against the Denver Nuggets, Randle will be matched up against the “Manimal”, Kenneth Faried. Just like Randle, Faried is an exceptionally active player who plays with a ton of energy and hustle, so Randle has his work cut out for him.
But individual matchups have hardly been a concern for this team. Defense, on the other hand, has been the biggest issue that has been hampering the Lakers.
Pick and rolls and guard penetration have been dismantling the Lakers on the defensive end. First, Ricky Rubio shredded the Lakers by abusing the pick and roll, then Rajon Rondo tore through the defense with his penetration, and later the Mavericks ripped apart the defense by playing pick and pop with Dirk Nowitzki all night.
In this game, the Lakers will go up against rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who has been averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 assists in his young career so far. However, Mudiay has been turnover prone, averaging over six miscues per game, and has been shooting a dreadful 33 percent from the field.
Mudiay’s poor shooting should give the Lakers the green light to go under picks to dare him to shoot outside shots for the night.
Aside from defense, the Lakers need better ball movement. There has been too much one-on-one play to say the least, which has ultimately made the offense stagnant for the most part. Rookie D’Angelo Russell may need to take charge and become more aggressive. So far, the 19-year old has been far too timid rather than commanding the ball to take control of the offense.
Another issue has been Kobe Bryant’s subpar play, as the 20-year veteran is averaging 17.3 points on 31.4 percent shooting. Against Dallas, he put up 15 points on 3 of 15 shooting.
“I suck right now,” Bryant said after Sunday's loss. “I’m the 200th best player in the league right now. I frickin’ suck. I’m just playing like s**t right now. I’m getting the shots I want. I’m just not making them.”
Perhaps against a mediocre defensive team, the Lakers could get loose and figure a few things out about themselves. However, Denver is not to be taken lightly despite losing their last two games because they came away with an impressive road win against the Houston Rockets in their opener. Also last year, they beat the Lakers three games to one in the season series.
Tuesday night’s game will take place at the STAPLES Center at 10:30 pm Eastern Time. The contest will be televised on NBATV as part of Fan Night.