Lakers vs Nuggets

Game Preview: Lakers vs Nuggets

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Los Angeles Lakers (51-18)  |  Denver Nuggets (46-24)

 

After losing three straight games, the Lakers are looking to bounce back against the Denver Nuggets.

 

It has been a roller coaster of a week for the Lakers. They started with a victory over the Utah Jazz, to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs. Since that victory, they have fallen victim in three straight games.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: Silver Screen and Roll

Los Angeles surprisingly got blown out the young Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-86. Without LeBron James, they looked awful in an ugly 113-97 loss to the Houston Rockets. Then they wrapped up the week with a close 116-111 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Last week on our 70213 Lakers podcast, my fellow co-hosts predicted they would go undefeated in their next four games; obviously, that did not happen. I was off on my predictions as well as I had them going 3-1. The team that I predicted that they would lose to was the Denver Nuggets, who also happens to be their next opponent.

I figured that Denver would be the Lakers‘ toughest opponent remaining on their seeding game schedule because they are a young but experienced squad that’s loaded with talent. They are led by All-Star Nikola Jokic, who leads the team in points (20.4), rebounds (10), and assists (7). After the four-month hiatus, Jokic arrived at the bubble looking slimmer and ready to use his new body to take the Nuggets back to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009.

 

The big story for Denver since the NBA season resumed however, has been the play of rookie forward Michael Porter Jr.

 

He is averaging a double-double of 25.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game for the five seeding games that the Nuggets have played so far, including his career-high 37 point performance in an overtime win over the Thunder.

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: DraftKings

Porter Jr. has seen an increase in minutes since a handful of starters for Denver have been hurt since the bubble began. The Nuggets did see some good signs in the return of Jamal Murray, who made his bubble debut Saturday against Utah. Murray had himself a near triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists in the slight 134-132 double-overtime victory. He struggled to find his rhythm in the first half but got things going when it mattered most in the clutch moments down the stretch of the game.

Denver is still without Gary Harris, Will Barton, and former Laker Troy Daniels. They currently sit at third in the Western Conference, at just a game and halfback behind the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

 

The Lakers, who are currently in a downward trajectory, are hoping to snap out of this skid but it will definitely be a challenge.

 

 

Part of the reason for the Lakers losing has been the inconsistent rotations and new and different lineups on the floor. These seeding games have allowed us to see Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook, Talen Horton-Tucker, and more bench players in extended minutes.

Head Coach Frank Vogel said that he has a good idea of what the playoff rotation will look like, but will still look to evaluate and experiment with lineups some more. Danny Green said that they would like to play a game with the playoff rotation to get a feel for it, but the ultimate priority is to have guys rest up and be fresh for the postseason. Vogel says that we will not see the playoff rotation in the Denver game, as there will still be some more experimenting with the lineups.

Perhaps, we may see the playoff rotation in the final seeding game against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

 

Lakers vs Nuggets
Photo Credit: Silver Screen and Roll

JaVale McGee said they should be good for the playoffs, once they will have everyone healthy and have the rotation set and in order. The Lakers will not have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the game against the Nuggets as he tweaked his ankle in the loss to Indiana. His ankle is fine, but Vogel will like to rest him.

Starting point guard Rajon Rondo has recently traveled to Florida, although outside of the bubble, to continue his rehab process. Once he is ready, he will return to the Walt Disney World campus and rejoin the Lakers. Rondo is hopeful of returning as early as the first round of the playoffs.

 

 

With the rotation still in question, we will have to just see what the players on the court for the Lakers will be able to do against a tough Denver team.

 

James had 31 points, but Anthony Davis and the other three starters failed to score more than eight points in the loss to Indiana. That will not cut it against the Nuggets; as Davis stated, “It is on me… I need to do more,” after the loss. Along with slowing down Denver‘s talented shooting on defense, finding consistency on offense will be essential if the Lakers want to put an end to their losing streak.

 

You can watch the Lakers play against the Nuggets at 6pm on TNT and Spectrum SportsNet.

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Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24

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