The Lakers return home after a three game road trip and square off against the Nuggets. After putting on a showcase of domination in San Antonio, the Lakers are looking as strong as ever. Kobe may rejoin the lineup tonight, but with the way the Lakers are playing they don’t need to rush him back before he’s fully healed. The Nuggets are a very balanced team without a clear cut superstar. They run 9-10 deep with one of the most productive second units in the league.
Frontcourt: Kousta Koufos, a legit seven-footer, has started the last three games at center; however he plays less minutes than backup JaVale McGee. Koufos is large and can matchup physically with Bynum, but he isn’t involved often on the Nuggets offense sets. McGee is a long-armed player who is known for blocking shots and providing comedic relief to NBA fans. Rookie Kenneth Faried has taken full advantage of the opportunities given to him and has flourished in the Nuggets starting lineup. As a starter he’s averaging 11 points, eight boards, one steal and one block. Although he may be undersized to play power forward by NBA standards, he goes hard every game. Rounding out the front court are sharp shooters Gallinari and Harrington. One of the top candidates for Sixth Man of the Year, Harrington pours in 14.5 points and 1.6 treys off the bench along with 6.2 boards. Gallinari is a solid swingman who can score, but has looked rusty in his first two games since returning from a thumb injury.
Backcourt: Running the show at the point, Ty Lawson is having the best year of his young career. He’s averaging 15.3 points on 48 percent shooting, 6.7 assists and 1.1 treys. Lawson is a speedy guard who has a solid jumper and decent court vision. Backing up Lawson, veteran Andre Miller looks to pass more than he shoots and has the most assists per minute for the Nuggets. UCLA product Arron Afflalo will be returning to the city he grew up in. Afflalo continues to improve each year that he’s in the league – this year he’s realized his offensive potential (14.8 points per game) and remains a lock down on-ball defender.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Bynumite! – Bynum has struggled offensively without Kobe, his field goal percentage has dropped to 37.5 percent. Despite his struggles on offense, it’s clear that Bynum can still dominate the game in other ways. He was a rebounding machine on Wednesday night and finished the game with 30 boards. He also plugged the lane well and made the Spurs players think twice about shooting over him. Let’s hope that Wednesday night wasn’t a one time thing and Bynum continues to play hard on both ends of the floor.
Bench Play – The Nuggets have a very deep team and the Lakers bench has been sub-par this season. If there is one thing that the Lakers bench needs to focus on, it is on the defensive end of the floor. There is a noticeable drop off on defense when the bench is inserted into the game.
Keep up the Intensity – The Lakers we all know and love are a team of ups and downs. At times they come out lackadaisical and barely struggle to beat bad teams like the Hornets. Then they turn on a switch and elevate their game to another level against tougher competition like the Spurs. It’s a recurring theme that we’ve seen throughout the season. Now that we’re nearing the playoffs it’s time for the Lakers to sustain their intensity. If they can do that, they will make a very deep run and could contend for the championship.
Denver Nuggets (32-26) at Los Angeles Lakers (35-22)
4:30 PM PST, April 13, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: FSW, NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Nuggets Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: Kousta Koufos
Key Reserves: PF Al Harrington, PG Andre Miller, C JaVale McGee, GF Corey Brewer