March 13, 2018, 8:08 pm
The Lakers (30-36) host the Nuggets (37-30) on Tuesday night in what promises to be a heated game.
Los Angeles is looking for some retribution after Jamal Murray taunted the Lakers during a Nuggets’ 125-116 victory on Friday. His words had such a strong effect that Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton had to be restrained from confronting him on the court. This was not Murray’s first altercation with the Lakers — he drew the ire of many Laker players earlier this season when he dribbled around Lonzo Ball to spite him as time expired in an earlier encounter. Many Laker players, including Ball, have commented on their frustration with Murray and a desire to take care of business this time out. The Lakers faltered down the stretch in both games in which Murray insulted the Lakers. His actions are guaranteed to lend some additional energy to the Lakers’ team and Staples Center tonight.
Denver is currently in a three-way tie (Jazz and Clippers) for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference with just 15 games remaining. There would be no better way for the Lakers to take their revenge than to deliver a blow to the Nuggets’ playoff aspirations.
The Lakers are nursing slim playoff hopes, trailing Denver by 6.5 games. However, they continue to build momentum in the second half of the season. This season marks the first time that Los Angeles has amassed 30 wins since the 2012-2013 season (45), eclipsing their mark of 26 games from last season with 16 games still remaining. The Lakers started the season 11-27 before going 19-9, including 7-2 since the All-Star break.
Los Angeles is coming off a pivotal victory, annihilating LeBron James and the Cavaliers 127-113 on Sunday. Key to the win was Julius Randle who had a career-high 36 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two blocks while shooting 14-of-18 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line. Since Larry Nance Jr. was traded away, Randle is averaging 20.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists while converting 59 percent of his shots from the field and 75 percent from the line. His marked improvement may have forced the Lakers’ hand this offseason — there is seemingly no way the Lakers can let the impending free agent walk away.
Another player elevating his game right now is Brook Lopez, who has scored over 20 points in three consecutive games for the first time as a Laker. He is particularly important tonight as he is matched up with the Nuggets’ best player Nikola Jokic. Jokic, one of the most versatile big men in the NBA, is averaging 17.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.3 3-pointers a game. He is coming off his seventh triple-double of the season this Sunday against the Sacramento Kings.
– One major difference between these two teams is shooting: The Nuggets shoot 36.9 percent from 3-point range (ninth) vs. 34.5 percent (29th) for the Lakers. The disparity is extended to free throw shooting where Denver shoots 76.3 percent (19th) in contrast to the Lakers who shoot 70.7 percent (30th). However, since the All-Star break, the Lakers are shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range (first) and a much improved 78.5 percent from the free throw line (13th).
-The Lakers have a significant rebounding edge for the season with 46.4 rebounds per game (second) compared to 44.2 rebounds per game (ninth) for the Nuggets.
-Los Angeles is the better defensive team on the season with a defensive rating of 105.6 (13th) vs. 108.6 (26th) for Denver.
-Three elements that have plagued the Lakers are opponent points off turnovers (18.5 points per game, 25th), second chance points allowed (13.7 points per game, 29th) and points in the paint allowed (48.7 points per game, 29th).
-This game may prove to be a battle in the trenches as these are two of the top inside scoring teams in the league with Los Angeles leading the league with 53.0 points per game and the Nuggets close behind with 49.5 points per game (fourth).
Projected Starting Rosters
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Kyle Kuzma (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Jamal Murray (PG)
Gary Harris (SG)
Wilson Chandler (SF)
Paul Millsap (PF)
Nikola Jokic (C)
Brandon Ingram (groin) – OUT
Josh Hart (finger) – OUT
Channing Frye (appendectomy) – OUT
Time: 7:30 PM PST, 10:30 PM EST
Television: ESPN, NBCSBA, SPECSN/SPECD, TSN1/3
Radio: 95.7 THE GAME, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES