December 2, 2017, 1:07 pm
The Lakers (8-13) head to Denver to take on the Nuggets (12-9) on Saturday in a rematch of the November 19 game that Los Angeles won 127-109.
Denver is led statistically by their young center Nikola Jokic who averages 15.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks. However he rolled his ankle badly in the Nuggets win Thursday — Denver may be forced to scratch Jokic from their lineup giving the Lakers a tremendous opportunity to steal a win in a particularly treacherous stretch of their schedule.
In his stead, Will Barton played hero for the Nuggets in their 111-110 victory Thursday with 37 points, two rebounds, three assists, three steals and six 3-pointers on 13-of-19 shooting. He made the game-winning layup with three seconds remaining to help Denver snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Lakers are coming off an agonizing home loss to the Warriors in which Los Angeles led 109-106 with less than one minute left in the game. After a missed last second shot by Brandon Ingram, the Lakers would lose in overtime.
As painful as the loss was, there were a lot of positives to take from the Lakers’ efforts including a career-best 32 points from the aforementioned Ingram. He played a tremendous game against his idol Kevin Durant amassing five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks while shooting 12-of-21 from the floor, 2-of-2 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Ingram is starting to blossom averaging 15.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. His shooting has improved from 40.2 percent a game to 46.6 percent a game and he is playing with confidence and aggression.
Another player who performed well against the Warriors was rookie Lonzo Ball who had 15 points and 10 assists. More important than his statistical output was his improved shooting, his assertiveness and his strong impact on the game including a stretch of eight consecutive points. His last game against Denver was his second career triple-double, a massive performance in which he compiled 11 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and two blocks.
The Lakers hope their young cornerstones build on their recent strong play in this crucial game. Speaking of young Lakers playing at a high level, Kyle Kuzma was just awarded Western Conference Rookie of the Month before suffering back spasms in pregame warm-ups and missing the contest against Golden State. He practiced Friday and the Lakers aim to have him back Saturday.
Two veterans playing well for the Lakers are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Julius Randle. The latter has reinvented himself as a defensive presence and spark plug off the bench. Analysis performed after the last game showed that Randle is included in each of the Lakers seven most effective lineups. Caldwell-Pope has had a strong presence at both ends of the court and is particularly hot in his last five contests averaging 21.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.4 steals, and 3.6 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor.
The Lakers have a tendency to play to their competition, both good and bad. Their fans would prefer that they maintain the high level and intensity they demonstrated Wednesday against the Warriors or duplicate their masterful performance from the last meeting with the Nuggets rather than stoop to the level of the injury plagued squad that they are likely to face Saturday.
- Overall, the Lakers shoot 45.9 percent (14th) from the floor while the Nuggets shoot a fraction better at 46.1 percent (13th).
- There is a stark difference in 3-point shooting as Los Angeles is last in the league at 31.6 percent compared to 36.4 (15th).
- The Nuggets and Lakers are two of the worst free throw shooting teams in the league at 72.7 percent (27th) and 71.3 percent (30th) respectively.
- The two teams have have almost identical assist per game stats at 23.0 (12th) for the Nuggets and 23.1 (11th) for the Lakers.
- Los Angeles averages 106.6 (13th) points per game compared to 106.5 (14th) for Denver.
- One of the few stats with a significant disparity between the two teams is points against in which the Lakers allow 108.7 point per game vs. 106.6 points per game for the Nuggets. This is despite the fact that Los Angeles has a better defensive rating at 102.0 (8th) than Denver who sits at 106.6 (20th).
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Larry Nance Jr. (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Jamal Murray (PG)
Gary Harris (SG)
Juan Hernangomez (SF)
Kenneth Faried (PF)
Mason Plumlee (C)
Kyle Kuzma (back) – PROBABLE
Nikola Jokic (ankle) – OUT
Paul Millsap (wrist) – OUT
Wilson Chandler (back) – QUESTIONABLE
Date: December 2, 2017
Time: 6:00 PST, 9:00 EST
Television: SPECSN/SPECD, Altitude
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN Deportes, KKSE 950 AM