As professional athletes, each member of the Lakers should be embarrassed with their effort last night. Tonight’s matchup with the Denver Nuggets, who have lost 12 of 14 themselves, will show the competitive nature of each player on the team. Last night’s loss to the Clippers, a historic 142-94 defeat, was the worst final margin in the history of the proud Laker franchise. Denver has been a difficult place to play for the Lakers over the years, and tonight will be no exception even though the Nuggets have been unraveling of late. Let’s take a look at how the Lakers match up with Denver.
Frontcourt: Denver’s frontcourt brings a high level of energy to the game, and this is embodied in the play of Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets’ starting power forward, now in his third season, is an explosive leaper who excels at finishing above the rim as well as crashing the offensive boards. He averages 2.8 offensive rebounds per game in only 25 minutes per game. Wesley Johnson, who has been starting at the four, is going to have his hands full in trying to box him out if Coach D’Antoni continues to go to his four-guard starting lineup. Timofey Mozgov starts at center, and he had his two highest scoring games of the season in the team’s previous two games with the Lakers, scoring 23 and 20 points, respectively. Pau Gasol must work to push him off the block and not let him get easy baskets near the rim.
Wilson Chandler is another athletic player who is dangerous on the break for the Nuggets. Chandler is adept at slashing to the rim and finishing over defenders. Kent Bazemore is a good matchup for Chandler, as he has the quickness to keep him in front of him. Laker management should be using these remaining games to see how Bazemore works as a lockdown defender on athletic wings to see if he can fulfill that role in the future. Chandler averages 14.1 points per game on the season and is a capable three-point shooter (35.2 percent on 5.9 attempts per game).
Backcourt: The Nuggets go as point guard Ty Lawson takes them. Lawson is amongst the quickest players in the NBA from end-to-end with the ball in his hands, and is every bit as fast as the Russell Westbrooks and Tony Parkers of the league when it comes to straight-line speed. Kendall Marshall will unquestionably struggle with this defensive assignment, so expect to see lots of Jordan Farmar tonight. Over the course of his career, Lawson has developed his midrange jumper and his shot from beyond the arc. The way to defend him is still to force him to hit these shots outside the paint because he is also able to distribute effectively when he penetrates (8.8 assists a night). Lawson leads the Nuggets in scoring at 18.8 points per game.
Randy Foye starts at shooting guard, and he can get it going in a hurry from the three-point line. Known as a knockdown shooter through his seven-year career, Foye has kept that reputation intact in his first season as a Nugget. He takes over half of his shots from three and hits on 38 percent on the season.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Keep It Half-Court: It is hard to see the Lakers winning this game if the Nuggets thoroughly dominate them in the area of fastbreak points. Though Denver ranks tenth to the Lakers’ twelfth in fastbreak points per game, the Nuggets hold a considerable advantage in athleticism and have an All-Star caliber point guard to lead the charge. Operating more of a half-court game could help the Lakers control the ball better, too.
Continuous Defensive Energy: Fresh off of giving up 142 points last night, the Lakers’ coaching staff should not be talking about anything other than defensive effort and rotations. The Lakers should come out with defensive intensity after last night’s effort, but it is about sustaining that effort for 48 minutes.
Erase Past: From the Lakers’ poor history at the Pepsi Center to last night’s 48-point less to the rival Clippers, the Lakers cannot dwell on things that have happened in the past. If they come out tentative and downtrodden, it could be another long night against a Nuggets team that just recently snapped a six-game losing streak.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 10-point underdogs according to Sportsbook.com
Los Angeles Lakers (21-41) vs. Denver Nuggets (26-34)
6:00 PM PST, March 8, 2014
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Nuggets Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Wilson Chandler
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: G Nate Robinson, C J.J. Hickson, PG Aaron Brooks
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Wesley Johnson
C: Pau Gasol
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