Lakers Get First Chance At New-Look Nuggets

Starting line-ups:

PG: Derek Fisher – Ty Lawson
SG: Kobe Bryant – Arron Afflalo
SF: Ron Artest – Danillo Gallinari
PF: Pau Gasol – Kenyon Martin
C: Andrew Bynum – Nene Hilario

The Nuggets are 14-4 with their new roster after shipping Carmelo Anthony to New York. Denver has won five straight games and holds the 5th seed in the Western Conference standings. Ty Lawson, who received the starting gig after Chauncey Billups’ departure has improved and showed he might someday be the face of the Rocky Mountain team. Coach George Karl is starting to turn some heads for the Coach of the Year award after the troubled star Anthony seemed to be the problem for the team.

The Lakers are on fire, and on Friday won their ninth straight game. On Friday, the Lakers were in Utah and at times were down by as much as 17 points. However, they played a strong 4th quarter to seal the game. The loss for the Jazz ended their chances at the playoffs. Utah went for a bigger starting line-up with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson playing forwards with Fesenko at center. Kyrylo Fesenko did give Bynum a hard time in the first half and Millsap played with great intensity. In the end, the Lakers prevailed with momentum in their direction late in the third with Fisher hitting a three-pointer, tying the game.

Los Angeles is now 17-1 since the All-Star break. They are on pace to have the best record after the All-Star break. With only seven games remaining on their regular season schedule, Los Angeles is in the rear view mirror of the Spurs in the race to claim the number one seed. The Lakers are currently 1.5 games behind San Antonio. The two teams will meet once again before the playoffs begin.

Keys to victory for Lakers:

Control the tempo – Lawson and Felton will try to push the ball against Fisher. Both Fisher and Blake will have a handful trying to stop these two quick and talented guards.

Scrappy defense – Secure the ball. With the addition of Chandler and Gallinari, Denver’s defense definitely improves as those two forwards are quick on their feet. If the Nuggets come up with a steal, you bet they’ll run and get fast break points.

Bench vs. Bench – Odom and the Killer B’s are up against a heavy bench set with Chandler, Harrington, Felton, and Smith leading the Nuggets. This might be the game changer if the Lakers bench plays well.

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