Pre-Game Report: Lakers Look to Extend Streak Against Nuggets

Denver Nuggets (2-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (2-2)
12:30 PM PST, December 31, 2011
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Nuggets Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Nené
C: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves: G Andre Miller, F Al Harrington, G Rudy Fernandez

Notable Missing Players: Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin (due to contracts with China)

The Lakers look to continue their winning streak and energetic performance as they face the offensively explosive Denver Nuggets in an afternoon game on New Years Eve. The Lakers welcome back Andrew Bynum after serving a four game suspension stemming from last year’s post-season against the Dallas Mavericks. Denver has only won four of their past 28 road games against the Lakers dating back to the 1996-97 season.

Frontcourt: The center position is a definite weakness for the Nuggets. Starting center Timofey Mozgov is averaging 1.7 points per game, 2 rebounds per game and 14 minutes per game.  Look for Nené and Al Harrington to regularly slide into the center position, especially on offensive possessions. Denver’s frontcourt is built around PF Nené, who is averaging 14.3 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game. Nené shot 77 percent (10-13) for 25 points in their game against the Utah Jazz on December 28. Starting forward Danilo Gallinari is averaging double figures (14 ppg) in points per game in each of the three first games of Denver’s season. Forward Al Harrington is putting up 14.7 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Backcourt: Denver’s biggest strength is their backcourt. Denver is shooting 45 percent from mid-range and 36 percent beyond the three-point perimeter. However, the Nuggets are shooting 0 percent from the corner three thus far in the Nuggets’ season. University of North Carolina’s Ty Lawson is averaging 22.3 points per game (team leader), three assists per games and four steals per game. Lawson is shooting 61.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from the three-point line. Nuggets’ head coach George Karl places the foundation of the team’s performance on Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is averaging 13.3 points per game this season. The addition of guard Andre Miller (12.7 PPG and 8.3 APG) and guard Rudy Fernandez (8.7 PPG) coming off the bench adds fuel to the offensive fire along with veteran leadership on a rather young team.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:

Limit Turnovers: The Lakers are averaging 14.3 turnovers per games, while the Nuggets are averaging 13.3 turnovers per game. However, the big difference between the two teams come from their ability to steal. The Nuggets are averaging a league leading 16 steals per game, while the Lakers are averaging 6.5 steals per game. With the speed of the Nuggets, this leads to fast break opportunities and points off turnovers, which accounts for a sizable portion of Denver’s offense.

Get Bynum Involved: Andrew Bynum will without a doubt be motivated to get back on the floor. This is the perfect game to get him back into action since he will dominate the center position. Since the Nugget’s center position is rather weak and Nené isn’t a strong rebounder despite his size, look for Bynum to use his body and strength in the lane to not only score but to get second-chance opportunities. The Lakers are shooting 63% in the paint this season without Bynum. Therefore the Lakers need to run the offense through Bynum and the frontcourt tonight for high percentage shots.

Keep them under 95: The Lakers are averaging 93.3 points per game, which is 19th in the league, while the Nuggets are averaging 111.3 points per game, which is first in the league. However, Mike Brown’s defensive philosophy and his goal of bringing East coast style of basketball to the west coast has led the Lakers to only give up 85.3 points per game. Meanwhile the Nuggets’ defense are allowing 101.3 points per game as Denver is a primarily offensive style team. The defense of the Lakers have stepped up from last season and will need to continue against the offensive-charged Nuggets to capture the win.

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