For one half on Thursday, the Lakers looked vulnerable. The visiting Denver Nuggets made Anthony Davis uncomfortable. They crashed the offensive glass and built a 12-point lead at the half. Then in the third quarter, the Lakers hit a gear on defense the Nuggets couldn't overcome. That spilled into the fourth quarter, too, and in the end LA walked away with a 21-point win.
That's a 33-point swing.
And it happened in a way that had to be really discouraging to the rest of the league. Not just because the Lakers cranked it up and throttled a good Western Conference team, but the how. Anthony Davis? Good, but not special. LeBron? Doing his thing, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. It's not that they can't be beaten, but doing it four times in a seven game series will be a tall order for anyone.
Some of Thursday's conversational highlights:
-The comfort level of Kyle Kuzma, who is playing with a level of freedom we haven't seen in a while. How much is related to the security of his contract extension? How much is the Lakers validating his performance, and for playing the role they need him to play? Either way, if he keeps playing like he is, Kuz will glue Markieff Morris to the bench.
-The ascendence of Talen Horton-Tucker continues. He was dynamic against Denver, and is providing the Lakers a type of scoring from the bench they didn't have before (including from Kuzma, who isn't nearly as efficient putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim). THT is proving to be the real deal, and making it almost impossible for Frank Vogel to take him off the floor. Which, like Kuzma is doing to Morris, will keep Wes Matthews on the bench.
-Dennis Schroder, after a slow January, looks like he's getting comfy again. This is a good thing for LA.
-Finally, Davis was only modestly productive against Denver, and does have moments where he seems to fade in and out of games. We used to say the same of Pau Gasol. Is there a commonality there?
From there, we tackle the All Star Game. Should it be played? The NBA is pushing ahead, but LeBron James said Thursday he's not a fan of the idea. What are the good reasons for cancelling the game? The crass money grab turns people off, but should it?
And finally, it's Jared Dudley vs. Paul George!