The Los Angeles Lakers return home after a brutal Grammy road trip in which the team went win-less in four contests. They’ll be facing the Denver Nuggets who have lost six straight, so expect an ugly slugfest between two struggling teams. The Lakers are seemingly in full tank mode and are more concerned with giving their younger players playing time than winning. We’ll see if Byron Scott and team and right the ship tonight and triumph over the Nuggets in the friendly confines of Staples Center.
Frontcourt: One of the reasons the Nuggets were able to trade Timofey Mozgov was because of the emergence of rookie Jusuf Nukic. Nukic is a seven footer from Bosnia who was drafted with the 16th overall pick in 2014. He has surprised the Nuggets with his NBA readiness and has stepped into the role of starting center almost seamlessly. Nukic averages 6.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and a respectable 1.3 blocks. Known as an energy player, Kenneth Faried has historically done well against the Lakers often lackadaisical defense and rebounding. Faried thrives on the offensive glass and has a penchant for putbacks. His boundless energy will present a challenge for the Lakers young starting frontcourt.
Wilson Chandler seized the starting small forward spot from Danilo Gallinari this season and he’s played pretty well with averages of 13.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He’s dangerous from beyond the arc and leads the team with 1.9 threes per game. Chandler is a very athletic forward who can also rebound and defend well. Gallinari has struggled since returning to the NBA this season. He missed most of last year with an injury. Known for his shooting, Gallinari hasn’t found his stroke this year; he’s shooting an abysmal 35.2 percent from the field.
Backcourt: Ty Lawson is a speedy point guard who loves to penetrate and dish. He’s having a career year this year with 16.5 points and 10 assists per game. Lawson is the lone Nuggets player who could single-handedly lead his team to victory over the Lakers. The Lakers have struggled to contain point guards like Lawson and if they let him run free, he will certainly cause damage. Lawson is not a particularly great shooter, so if the Lakers can force him to shoot rather than penetrate, it’ll greatly diminish his effectiveness.
Arron Afflalo rejoined the Nuggets this year after a two year stint in Orlando. The former UCLA Bruin will enjoy a homecoming of sorts since he also grew up in Los Angeles. Afflalo is known for being a tough nosed defender, but he’s also developed his offense throughout his career. Afflalo is the Nugget’s second leading scorer with nearly 15 points per game.
Keys to Victory:
Contain Afflalo and Lawson: The Nuggets starting backcourt duo are the cogs of their offense. No one on the roster comes close to Lawson in terms of assists so if the Lakers can focus on containing him, then they could limit the Nuggets overall attack. The Lakers guards should keep Lawson in front of them and dare him to shoot rather than let him penetrate the paint.
Defensive Effort: The Lakers gave up 120 points to the Cavs on Sunday and have continued to struggle on defense. They’re second last in the league in defensive efficiency and give up 108.2 points per 100 possessions. The Nuggets are a beatable team and their offense isn’t great, so if the Lakers can turn up the defensive intensity then they could put themselves in great position to earn a win tonight.
Jordan Clarkson: He’s not the rookie that most people thought would be starting for the Lakers this year, but Clarkson is certainly making the most of his opportunity. As a starter Clarkson has chipped in 13.8 points, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He’s clearly one of the most talented players on the Lakers roster at the moment and he has plenty of upside. His strong play could help propel the Lakers to a victory tonight.
Denver Nuggets (19-33) at Los Angeles Lakers (13-38)
7:30 PM PST, February 10, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Nuggets Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: PF: J.J. Hickson F: Danilo Gallinari PG: Randy Foye F: Darrell Arthur
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Tarik Black
C: Robert Sacre
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