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Lakers, Lonzo Ball Must Show no Mercy on Jamal Murray and Denver Nuggets

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It’s been a long time since the Los Angeles Lakers have been shown any semblance of respect or relevancy by players inside the NBA. While the storied franchise speaks for itself, they have largely been an embarrassment for the past few years, and an eyesore for Lakers fans praying for the good old days to return. Thankfully, this season has been a resurgence and a sign of greater things coming as the Lakers have a young and talented core of players they can build around for years to come.

However, they are still going through their share of growing pains. While this team appears to be close in terms of camaraderie, their youth and inexperience as a whole has shown in one area in particular, which has prevented them from breaking out completely. The area in which I’m speaking of is toughness as it relates to not getting punked.

Let’s rewind back to December 2, 2017  when the Lakers played the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. I’m pretty sure there was some animosity being that Lonzo Ball dropped his second career triple-double (and record breaking) on them at the Staples Center just a couple weeks prior to the tune of a 127-109 blowout, which quite possibly led to the actions that took place throughout that game.

For second-year point guard, Jamal Murray, it appeared he took the loss, and more specifically, Lonzo’s performance personal, and wanted to get back at him in any way possible. For much of the game, you could see Murray chirping at Lonzo from time to time, and as the game finally got away from the Lakers, and with time winding down — Murray deciding to dribble the ball towards Lonzo and taunt him by dribbling the ball around him — which did not sit well with some of his teammates.

Julius Randle, who is a former Kentucky Wildcat like Murray, rushed over to confront him, thus letting him know his actions were not acceptable. For me personally, this was not enough, and my expectation was for Murray to feel the wrath a tad bit more in their next encounter.

So, fast forward to March 9th (RIP Biggie) when the Lakers again trekked to the Pepsi Center for a rematch against Murray and the Nuggets. The outcome again did not go in the Lakers’ favor, but a familiar scene took place again when Murray appeared to be mouthing towards the Lakers bench in the waning moments, which did not sit well with Luke Walton.

When asked about the interaction, Walton had this to say, “I felt like for the second time we played here, Murray was being a little disrespectful at the end of the game,” said Walton. “Just some trash-talking toward our guys.”

isaiah thomas jamal murray denver nuggets lakers

Isaiah Thomas (3) and Jamal Murray (27) exchanging words during the last game between the Lakers and Nuggets. With a rematch tonight at Staples, there will be no love lost between these two teams. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Trash-talk is expected during any competitive game. Jamal Murray is not supposed to make nice with the opposing team, nor is he supposed to make you feel comfortable during the game. However, this is the second time this Lakers team has felt “disrespected” and a third time cannot be the charm should they want to move forward as a collective unit.

My suggestion?

Glad you asked. If I’m Walton, the game-plan is simple: Make Jamal Murray’s night a living hell. Trap him in the pick-and-roll, hard screens on offense, forearms to the chest at any given opportunity, and most importantly — send him to the floor if he dares to drive through the lane.

Now granted, I have a bit of an old-school mindset when it comes to those things. Ultimately, the objective needs to be to win the game. But, as a unit, as a brotherhood, they have to send a message to the entire league that just because we’re young, we are not to be messed with. Murray has punked them twice without consequence, and with the stakes higher, who’s to say he won’t go out of his way to drop 50 and really embarrass them?

Tonight’s game is crucial. The Lakers have an outside shot of obtaining the 8th-seed in the playoffs, so a win only increases those odds. More importantly, the Lakers have an opportunity to show the world they are a force to be reckoned with not just with their talent, but with their togetherness and grit. If I’m Walton, I’m showing them clips of Nino Brown in New Jack City when Wesley Snipes asks his crew, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Tonight, the Lakers have an opportunity to not just answer this, but showcase it, and emphatically shout, “Yes, I am!”

We shall see.

Brandon Williams is the Editor in Chief for Fresh Sports TalkYou can follow him on Twitter @TalkinWithFresh, or “Like” him on Facebook.

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