The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets have played three times, and all three of those meetings have provided memorable moments.
The first time the Lakers met the Nuggets, Lonzo Ball recorded his second triple-double with 11 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds in a 127-109 victory at STAPLES Center to become the youngest player in NBA history to record multiple triple-doubles. That was back in November.
In the second meeting between the two teams, Ball again played in a role in making the game memorable, but this time, the Lakers lost 115-100 in Colorado. In the closing stages with the clock running down, Jamal Murray decided to dribble around Ball as the Lakers' point guard walked towards the bench with the game decided.
It was a showboating play from Murray, who had a 28-point outing and decided to show up the rookie in the closing seconds. Off the bench, center Andrew Bogut took exception and looked like he was going to get rush the court until Julius Randle decided to take a hard foul on Murray with 3.0 seconds remaining. The Lakers did not take kindly to Murray's antics.
Both those early meetings occurred in 2017, but Murray's dribble still seemed fresh when the teams met in Denver on Friday, Mar. 9. At one point, Lakers coach Luke Walton seemed to get agitated with Murray to the point that he appeared to be shouting expletives at the Nuggets' player and toward's the Nuggets' bench.
Speaking to reporters in Denver after the game, Ball called Murray's antics "circus stuff," but the rookie point guard didn't seem to be interest in getting involved in a war or words or getting sucked into mind games.
Ahead of the final meeting between the two teams, which comes only five days after the Walton lost his temper on the sidelines, the Lakers' coach downplayed Murray any bad blood between the teams.
"No different than any other team," Walton said on Tuesday morning, making a point to mention that the Nuggets and Lakers aren't traditional rivals with any notable history.
Walton and Ball both claimed that Tuesday's game did not provide any extra motivation, and the coach said that he did not anticipate any retaliation against the Nuggets from his team.
When asked if he's good at ignoring people trying to bait him, Ball responded, "For sure, it's been happening my whole life."
Ball did say that his team and coach coming to his defense meant a lot to him, and the 20-year-old rookie added regarding Murray's antics, "That's two times in a row that he's done it, so we're going to see what happens tonight."
Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Channing Frye were all visible shooting on the court at Lakers' shootaround on Tuesday. Walton shared that Ingram would travel with the team to Golden State for the back-to-back on Wednesday night, while the other two members of the walking wounded would stay back.
Ingram has already been ruled out for Tuesday and Wednesday's games, and the 20-year-old is expected to be reevaluated for his groin strain on Thursday.
Hart suffered a fracture in his hand and underwent surgery, so his activity on the court did not necessarily translate into being available anytime soon. Walton pointed out that Hart's hand is still swollen, so Ingram will probably be the first of the injured contingent to return to the court.
Frye is out due to an appendectomy he underwent during All Star break. The veteran is improving according to his coach, but the sharp shooting forward has still only gone through non-contact work on the court.
Travis Wear Signs Second 10-Day
On Tuesday, the Lakers also announced that former UCLA Bruin Travis Wear had signed a second 10-day contract with the team, and Walton said that the 27-year-old had "earned" the contract with his play.
Wear is shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three-point land in five appearances since starting the first 10-day contract. Wear has been positive on the defensive side of the ball, too, and Walton cited the forward's defense and willingness to fill in the gaps when explaining the decision to fill up the Lakers' final roster spot.
The second 10-day contract will make the 6-foot 10-inch forward available for another five games. The Lakers will hope to have Brandon Ingram back available by the time Wear's second contract ends. Teams are not allowed to give the same player a third 10-day contract, so the Lakers would need to sign Wear for the remainder of the season if they wanted to continue utilizing the Southern California native's services.