Pre-Game Report: Lakers vs. Denver

Lakers @ Nuggets

Mar. 01, 2010 - Los Ngeles, CALIFORNIA, EEUU - LOS ANGELES (CA, USA), 28/02/2010.- Los Angeles Lakers' player Pau Gasol (R) fights for the ball with Denver Nuggets' Kenyon Martin (L), during their NBA basketball match in Los Angeles, California (USA), 28 February 2010. Lakers won 95-89.

Nuggets Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Chauncey Billups
SG: Arron Afflalo
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Shelden Williams
C: Nene Hilario

Key Reserves: Al Harrington, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson

Injuries: Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin

The Lakers travel to mile high city to face off against a familiar western conference foe. The Nuggets have struggled early this season, mainly due to key injuries. Their frontline has already logged three casualties (Nene, Andersen, and Martin). Nene recently rejoined the action and is starting at center alongside PF Shelden Williams.

Wait, let that sink in for a moment.

Yes, Shelden Williams is starting. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, the best thing going for him is that he’s married to Candace Parker. Sixth man Al Harrington actually plays more minutes than Williams and his ability to hit the trey opens up the Nuggets’ offense.

Kobe’s olympic teammate, Carmelo is probably the most talented player the Lakers have faced this year. He has put aside off season trade rumors and has refocused his attention to the court. His efficiency is off the charts: 49.3% FG, 88.9% FT, 47.4% from distance, and only 2.6 TO’s (all career highs).

The Nuggets have a great backcourt with savvy veteran Billups and defensive specialist Afflalo. Their backups Lawson and Smith are formidable as well. Afflalo has significantly upgraded his offense, so this season the Nuggets have even more scoring options on the wing. Historically, Billups has torched the Lakers averaging 3.5 threes per game in four meetings against them last season.

Keys to Lakers Victory:
Nene can be a force down low, but he has been limited by his groin injury, so expect Gasol to abuse him. As a team the Nuggets have trouble on the block, but they are dangerous beyond the arc. The Lakers’ backcourt will need to play hand-in-your-grill defense and fight over screens to limit the Nuggets’ three pointers. Melo will get his own, but Artest can limit his efficiency a la Indiana which held Melo to 33.3% FG’s. Fisher, Kobe, Blake, and Brown will have their work cutout against the Nuggets’ deep backcourt. Luckily for the Lakers, Kobe is playing at an elite level and few defenders, if any, have a prayer of limiting his offense.

Despite the Nuggets sub-par start, this should be a hotly contested match-up. After a sloppy win against the T-Wolves, hopefully the Lakers will come out with intensity and play all 48 minutes tonight.

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