Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Preview
The top two Western Conference teams are set to do battle tonight as the Los Angeles Lakers continue their road trip to Denver to take on the Denver Nuggets one game after suffering just their third loss of the season.
Both teams are entering tonight’s game off losses. Los Angeles still leads the Western Conference with a 17-3 record. They are 9-1 in their last ten games and are 8-1 on the road this season. Denver is second in the West with a 13-4 record. They have an excellent 8-2 record at the Pepsi Center and are 8-2 in their last ten games.
Time: 9 PM ET
Arena: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Channel: SPECSN, ALT
Lakers: Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma (P), Avery Bradley, De
Nuggets: Jerami Grant (P), Bol Bol (O)
Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup
The Los Angeles Lakers lost just one game in all of November, but it took them just one day in December to pick up their first loss of the month and their third loss overall as they were blown out by Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
Doncic has been playing on another level lately and has carried the Mavericks to a 13-6 record as they continue to surprise teams like they did in the 114-100 win over the Lakers on Sunday. But according to Lakers guard Danny Green, the Lakers have already turned the page and are ready for their matchup tonight.
“Each game is a new challenge,” Green said. “Denver is an even tougher team. Can’t take nothing away from Dallas. They are really good. But Denver is a new challenge, a different challenge.
“They have been playing well in the West the last couple of years. They have many different threats, inside and out, so it’s going to be a fun one and we look forward to scouting, looking at the film and figuring out what we need to do to obviously improve on ourselves, but also guard them and make them play to towards their weaknesses.”
Against the Mavericks, Los Angeles had just three players reach double figures. Anthony Davis led the team with 27 points and 10 rebounds, and LeBron James had a near triple-double with 25 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Alex Caruso chipped in with 10 points off the bench. With three Lakers starters scoring a total of just 19 points, they’ll need more scoring help from their reserve corps. Kyle Kuzma is probable for tonight’s game, and although he has been limited in minutes, he should be able to provide a nice scoring punch once he starts consistently receiving more minutes.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
Like last season, the Nuggets’ calling card this season has been their defense. Unlike last season, they aren’t creeping up and surprising teams anymore. The Nuggets had been on a six-game winning streak before surprisingly losing to the 8-10 Sacramento Kings 100-97 in overtime on Saturday night.
“Our guys understand that you can’t think that we’re just going to show up, look at a team’s record and think, ‘Well, on paper we’re better than this team.’ We have to go out and prove it every single night,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “The challenge is not to be satisfied and not get complacent and think we’ve arrived. Because we still have so much basketball to be played.”
The Nuggets seemed to be well on their way to victory in the first half Saturday, utilizing their defense to limit the Kings to just 40 first-half points while they scored 57. But it was the Kings applying the pressure in the second half as Denver struggled on offense, putting up just 33 points in the second half. The Kings’ balanced scoring and a throwback night for Harrison Barnes, who scored 30 points, were responsible for the late rally.
The Nuggets’ big man tandem of Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap had just 11 points between them, and Jamal Murray added just 15 points. Jerami Grant, who is back from injury, and Malik Beasley played well off the bench, which has been a strength for the Nuggets, but they just couldn’t keep up with the Kings’ second-half pace.
Key Player Matchups
Nikola Jokic vs. Anthony Davis
While they technically play at different positions, I can’t imagine Michael Malone not defending Davis with Jokic and vice versa for Frank Vogel. This is likely the matchup of the night for all games being played tonight. Jokic and Davis are two of the most dominant big men in the league and many would consider them one and two, but Joel Embiid might have something to say about that. If you love a good old school matchup, pop some popcorn and get ready for this one.
LeBron James vs. Will Barton
Barton is a solid defender and he is one of the key cogs of Denver’s defense, but Denver will hope to use team defense as they usually do to defend players the caliber of James. Even if Denver is able to limit his scoring, James is important as a distributor for the Lakers and if he’s able to draw in the defense, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be in position for spot-up threes.
Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic are stud picks for this game. Davis is available for $9.6k on FanDuel and is projected for 57.26 points. Jokic has a salary of $8.9k and is expected to finish with 43.87 points.
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