Nuggets and Lakers battle for possession of the 6th seed

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the leagues MVP candidates will face off for the first time this season

The Denver Nuggets look to start the season series off against the Los Angeles Lakers with a win. Both teams are without their secondary star but it will still be a great game. Since losing Anthony Davis to injury the Lakers are 5-8, in order to avoid the play-in game they need every win they can get. As do the Nuggets though, Denver is currently in 6th place in the Western Conference and the Lakers sit at 7th. A loss for Denver and a win for the Lakers would mean the Nuggets drop out of 6th place.

The Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers have a complex history. While the Lakers have almost always been a great basketball team, the Nuggets have not. Anytime the Nuggets are good the Lakers are right there to meet them in the playoffs. In the Nuggets 4 conference final runs the Lakers have eliminated them in 3 of those times (shout out to the 78’ SuperSonics).

This is deeper than just the franchises having battled in the conference finals a few times. The Lakers have a few players that Nuggets fans aren’t typically super fond of. Carmelo Anthony has a very love/hate relationship with Denver after playing here for 7 years. Some fans like him still and some fans won’t ever forgive him for leaving in the way he did. We all know Russell Westbrook is a Laker too. Westbrook has always been a player that some fans dislike because of his playstyle. But Nuggets fans won’t ever forget that half-court buzzer-beater he hit in the final game of the season to knock Denver out of the playoffs in 2017.

The Essentials:

Who?: The Denver Nuggets (21-19) vs the Los Angeles Lakers (21-21)

When?: 7:00 PM MST

Where?: Ball Arena, Denver Colorado

How to Watch/Listen?: Altitude Sports (best of luck), NBA TV, Spectrum Sportsnet, or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starters:

DEN: Monte Morris (PG), Wil Barton (SG), Aaron Gordon (SF), Jeff Green (PF), Nikola Jokic (C)

LAL: Russell Westbrook (PG), Avery Bradley (SG), Malik Monk (SF), Trevor Ariza (PF), LeBron James (C).

Injuries:

Den: Will Barton (neck) probable, Bol Bol (unknown) day-to-day, Vlatko Cancar (foot) OUT, Michael Porter Jr. (back) OUT, P.J. Dozier (knee) OUT, and Jamal Murray (knee) is OUT.

LAL: LeBron James (abdominal strain) probable, Carmelo Anthony (back) questionable, Dwight Howard (knee) questionable, Anthony Davis (knee) OUT, and Kendrick Nunn (knee) is OUT.

Rival Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Three Things to Watch

How does Monte Morris deal with Westbrook’s high motor?

While Russell Westbrook has not had the best start to his Laker career he can still cause problems for teams defenses. His ability to add extra possessions via offensive rebounds can’t be ignored. Westbrook in transition could cause some issues for the Nuggets backcourt. He is most likely faster than anyone on our team except for maybe Bones and Facu and neither of them have the strength needed to guard Westbrook. It is no secret that Russ has been shooting poorly recently, he has shot 29% from the field in his last 5 games. I think that if the Nuggets can force him into mid-range shots and three-pointers they would have a great chance of winning the game.

Who Guards Jokic?

The Lakers normal defenders on Jokic have been Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and a little bit of DeAndre Jordan. AD is out and if Dwight Howard doesn’t play that leaves DeAndre Jordan as the Laker’s lone big man. Jordan has not been a good defender in recent years so I doubt the Lakers will let Jokic go at him for long, he has only played in one of the Lakers last 9 games. Outside of the names mentioned in this paragraph already the Lakers only have 3 players that are 6’6 or taller, they are LeBron James, Trevor Ariza, and Stanley Johnson. The Lakers have been playing LeBron at center since AD got hurt and he has been playing great, don’t think that will continue if he’s matched up against Jokic though.

Attacking the glass.

As previously mentioned, the Lakers have been starting LeBron at center. This has caused some rebounding issues for the Lakers despite James playing at an elite level at center. The Lakers rank in at dead last in total rebounds since December 25th, they’ve only grabbed 386 in comparison to the next worse team, the Atlanta Hawks, who grabbed 389. Jokic currently ranks 2nd in the league for rebounds per game and could very well be the best rebounder in the league. Everything is lining up for a huge game from the Joker.

What’s Next?:

The Nuggets will face the Utah Jazz tomorrow at 6:00 MST. At least for this back-to-back, the Nuggets get to stay home.

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