The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of a win on Christmas Day for the first time in four years and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. It seems that the Lakers have flipped a switch and started to play basketball like everyone thought they would before the season began. It could be the return of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, or the lineup tinkering coach Mike D’Antoni has been doing, or the resurgence of Metta World Peace, or all of the above.
Tonight, the Lakers (14-14) travel to the Pepsi Center in Denver, CO to face the Nuggets (15-14). Los Angeles is led by Kobe Bryant, the 17-year NBA veteran, who has scored 30 or more points in nine straight games which makes him the oldest player in NBA history to do so. Steve Nash is averaging 14.0 points, 10 assists, and 4.5 rebounds since his return from his leg injury and he’s shown that he makes the Lakers infinitely better on both sides of the court. Metta World Peace has been relegated to the bench but he has proven key to the Lakers recent success, averaging 17.8 points and 8.2 rebounds during the Lakers current winning streak. Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard have improved their play since the return of Nash and Gasol but they have yet to live up to their potential this year.
The Lakers won the first matchup of the season between the two back on November 30, winning 122-103 at home. Los Angeles has always had trouble against the high-octane offense of George Karl, especially in the high-altitude Pepsi Center, so tonight will test the Lakers again despite the Nuggets’ streaky play.
The Denver Nuggets are coming off a Christmas Day loss to the Los Angeles Clippers but return home above .500. The Nuggets match up well with the Lakers because of their athleticism and balanced scoring. Denver has six players that average double figures in scoring, led by Danilo Gallinari who averages 15.3 ppg. The matchup between Gallinari and Bryant will be one to watch as they have two differing offensive styles. Gallinari is a spot-up shooter that rarely gets to the basket while Bryant can create a shot from any point on the floor. If the Lakers take advantage of their size in the low-post, they will out-rebound and out-score the Nuggets.
#24 Bryant SF #8 Gallinari
#16 Gasol PF #35 Faried
#12 Howard C #41 Koufos
#1 Morris SG #9 Iguodala
#10 Nash PG #3 Lawson
The game-tips off at 6:00PM PT on TWC SportsNet and ESPNLA 710.
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