On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers snapped their six-game losing streak with a 110-99 victory over the Utah Jazz. While the Lakers will remain shorthanded for at least another month, Kendall Marshall stepped up adding 20 points and 15 assists in his first start. Although the Jazz are one of the worst teams in the league, Los Angeles looks to build on this victory. For the first time since Kobe Bryant’s injury, head coach Mike D’Antoni will have the same starting lineup heading into tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
Frontcourt: The Nuggets’ frontcourt rotation is unique as five players play at least 18.5 minutes, but no more than 30.5 minutes per game. Without Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler has played well recently. In the past five games, Chandler is averaging 15.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.6 threes per game.
Although he doesn’t play major minutes anymore, Kenneth Faried has been a player the Lakers have had difficulties containing since he entered the league. In the past five games, Faried has struggled with an ankle injury and it’s shown in his performance. He is only averaging 9.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Backcourt: In his fifth season, Ty Lawson remains one of the fastest players in the league and is having the best season of his career. While head coach Brian Shaw has tried different lineups this season, Lawson has started all 30 games and is averaging 17.7 points and 8.1 assists.
Joining Lawson in the backcourt is Randy Foye. Known as a strong three-point shooter throughout his career, Foye has struggled this season. The eight-year guard is only averaging 9.0 points while shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 32.6 percent from beyond the arc. Although he has struggled, Shaw has been playing him significant minutes and will be a threat to have a breakout game against the Lakers.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Kendall Marshall: Without their three top point guards, the Lakers have naturally struggled. However, Marshall’s emergence into the starting lineup and his ability to create wide open opportunities for his teammates has been crucial. With Nick Young remaining the only player who can create a shot for himself, it will be interesting to see if the Nuggets force Marshall to become a shooter instead of a passer. Although Marshall has shot very well since arriving in Los Angeles, teams are going to force him to shoot moving forward and he’ll need to make some shots to keep the defense honest.
Rebounding: With a depleted roster, the main issue has been rebounding and the Nuggets are sixth in the league in that category. While head coach Mike D’Antoni is trying to conserve Jordan Hill’s energy, the Lakers will have to make a concerted effort to rebound as Denver has numerous big men that are exceptional on the boards.
Turnovers: While the Nuggets have tried to slow down the pace, they still have one of the fastest players in the league and strong finishers around the rim. With Marshall being the only point guard available, Nuggets will likely try to trap him to force other players to make decisions. As a result, the ball needs to go through Pau Gasol as he can operate from the low post or elbow.
Denver Nuggets (15-17) at Los Angeles Lakers (14-19)
6:30 PM PST, January 5, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Nuggets Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: J.J Hickson
Key Reserves: PG: Nate Robinson PF: Darrell Arthur SG: Evan Fournier
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Nick Young
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Robert Sacre
Coach D’Antoni on Kendall Marshall, Jeremy Lin, Chris Kaman Not Playing