Lakers basketball has finally returned as the team takes the floor in San Diego to take on Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and the Denver Nuggets.
All eyes will be on star Kobe Bryant who makes his return after two season ending injuries. Steve Nash also makes his return and will be closely watched as well. Draft picks Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, as well as new additions Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin will all be making their Laker debuts.
They have a tough test in the form of the Denver Nuggets led by the aforementioned Lawson and Faried, who just signed a new contract extension. The Nuggets also welcome back Aaron Afflalo who was acquired this off-season.
Aaron Afflalo got the scoring started with a three-pointer, but Kobe answered with a classic fadeaway to get the Lakers on the board. Two Kobe jumpers, including another beautiful fadeaway sandwiched an assist to Boozer as the Lakers tied the game at eight. A Wesley Johnson three gave the Lakers a 13-10 lead as Kobe scored or assisted on every early bucket. Nash got going with a layup and an alley-oop to Johnson, but the defense struggled to contain the Nuggets as the teams remained tied at 17 midway through the quarter. The Lakers had no answer for Lawson early as he got in the paint at will to put the Nuggets ahead. Some sloppy play caused the Lakers to fall behind, but a Boozer jumper kept the deficit at three. A Robert Sacre free throw ended the quarter as the team trailed Denver 29-27.
Sacre hit a 15-footer to tie the game early in the quarter. Randle got his first baskets as a Laker with a thunderous jam and a nifty post move as the Lakers held onto a slim lead. Jordan Clarkson struggled in the quarter, missing his first four shots. Failure to rebound allowed the Nuggets to pull ahead by two. Lin’s penetration helped a stagnant Lakers offense, finding Ed Davis for a dunk and Clarkson for two wide open threes as the Lakers took back a four-point lead. Davis provided a spark for the Lakers with six quick points and two blocks. The bench continued to shine for the Lakers as Randle and Davis combined for 14 points. A fast break dunk by Alonzo Gee gave the Nuggets a three-point lead heading into the half.
Jordan Hill with a putback off an offensive rebound to start the scoring for the Lakers as both teams looked sloppy to start the second half. The sloppy play continued. Nash had a nice layup, but five quick Nugget points allowed them to retain a two-point lead. Four points from Kobe gave the Lakers a two-point lead as the fans showered him with ‘MVP’ chants. Bryant continued to look good in the quarter but the teams remained even throughout the quarter. Nash and Kobe continued to lead the Lakers as the quarter wound down. A Randle jumper gave the Lakers a four-point lead heading into the final quarter.
The bench came in to start the fourth and Sacre again hit his first jumper of the quarter to give the Lakers a six point lead, their biggest of the night. The offense struggled early in the quarter, but the defense kept Denver at bay. A Wayne Ellington transition jumper pushed the lead to seven. Turnovers started to become a problem as the Nuggets quickly tied the game thanks to a 9-2 run. Another Ellington jumper ended the run. Ellington continued his strong quarter with a three-pointer, but Gary Harris matched it to keep the lead at two. A beautiful lob from Lin to Davis gave the Lakers a six-point lead with two minutes remaining. Davis followed with a huge block to keep the Lakers ahead. The Lakers faltered late, nearly losing the lead, but Randle got a dunk to clinch the victory in the Lakers first preseason game 98-95.
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