Preview: Jokic and LeBron face off in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Two historic basketball figures grace the hardwood today

The Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers will battle for the second time this season in an early Sunday 1:30 matchup. This game is crucial for both teams, but the Lakers most of all. They are on the outside looking into the play-in tournament right now. They are one game behind San Antonio, and every game is a must-win down the stretch for them.

The Lakers have performed well under expectations all season, but they are desperate for a win, so it is expected they will bring the energy tonight. Anthony Davis returned to the lineup Friday in a loss to the Pelicans, and although he and LeBron are listed on the injury report, they are hopeful to play today. The Nuggets do not share the same desperation, but the Timberwolves are now two games behind Denver in the standings, so a win tonight would be crucial to prevent them from dipping down to the 7th seed.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (46-32, 24-16 away) @ Los Angeles Lakers (31-46, 20-19 home)

When: 1:30 PM MT

Where: Crypto.com Arena

How to watch/listen: ABC, NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Expected Starting Lineups:

LAL: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Avery Bradley, SF LeBron James, PF Anthony Davis, C Dwight Howard

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

Injuries: Jamal Murray (out), Michael Porter Jr. (out), Zeke Nnaji (out), Vlatko Cancar (out), Carmelo Anthony (probable), LeBron James (probable), Anthony Davis (questionable), Kendrick Nunn (out)

Three Keys

Turn Will into the Thrill

This team is so much better when Will Barton is playing at a high level, and they might need him to perform well to take a win in LA. On Friday, Barton struggled mightily. He shot 3-12 and 1-5 from three along with a pair of turnovers. Look for him to have a bounce-back game today. In his last two road games, he has scored 18 in each matchup, and the Lakers defense should offer him some open looks.

Keep them from the free-throw line

Nugget fans are well aware of the flopping that goes on in a Lakers game. Although they are not a good free-throw shooting team, they are a top ten team in free throw attempts. Those attempts killed Denver versus Minnesota as Denver gave them 36 free throw attempts. LeBron is coming off a game in which he earned 12 attempts and Davis 9, so the Nuggets need to do their best at keeping their attempts in the single digits.

Defend the paint

The Lakers rank 20th in three-point percentage, but they are a top ten team in paint points. LeBron and Davis are some of the most unstoppable forces in that area, so Denver needs to collapse the paint as best they can and dare them to shoot. Malik Monk and LeBron can be dangerous three-point shooters, but the Lakers do not roster a bunch of elite threats, so their gameplan will most likely consist of trying to acquire easier baskets inside.

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