As we’ve done in the past when these two teams meet, we wanted to do something a little different with our friends over at Lakers Lounge. A few of us Dig in Denver contributors and the guys over at Lakers Lounge wanted to get together and have a little debate as to which team we think would win. Last time, I was granted the RBI bragging rights as my Denver Nuggets beat the LA Lakers 127-121.
Here’s how we think it’ll go this time around:
Mallorie- Dig in Denver:
As I think all of Nuggets Nation knows by now, our own Nikola Jokic went down on Thursday night with what was later diagnosed as a hip flexor strain. Going into Saturday’s game, I wasn’t sure what I should expect. I shouldn’t have been so hard on my team because not only did we win, but we had our first season sweep over the Suns since the 2003-2004 season.
Going into this game against the Lakers, I don’t have any doubts that we’ll have the advantage, even without Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay. For the Lakers, Julius Randle will not be playing and D’Angelo Russell will likely be on a minute restraint. With that being said, I’m looking forward to seeing Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Jameer Nelson, and the youngster Jamal Murray (if he plays–he’s sick) put in some work as well.
I’m foreseeing another big night from Danilo Gallinari, who led the team on Saturday night with a season high 32 points. I have faith in this team that they’ll pull of the W. My guess is by 8+.
After all, it is the year of the rooster.
Pedro- Lakers Lounge:
Man, I can’t even come onto this piece and be a Laker fan because I found out some bad news about 45 minutes ago, Julius Randle is officially listed as out for Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets. Not to mention that D’Angelo Russell will probably be seeing limited minutes coming back from his MCL sprain. The Lakers come on depleted but that’s never an excuse, I’m not going to predict a Lakers loss, I’m predicting the Lakers fight hard to the end, see what I did there?
I see Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. stepping up and helping Lou Williams carry the scoring load. I think Ivica Zubac will get some quality run with Randle’s absence, and possibly even Thomas Robinson. Maybe he can use this as an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation when Randle comes back. What I’m interested in is will Jordan Clarkson finally put his foot down and say get me the ball and get out of the way.
You want a final score you say? I can’t give you that, but I think the Lakers power through this Nuggets squad just because they’re the Lakers. And even if the Lakers do lose I don’t have to deal with the consequences, alternative facts baby. We live in a Trump presidency right now, and if he’s taught us one thing is that facts don’t matter.
Steve-Dig in Denver:
After an impressive win against the lowly Suns, Denver has won three in a row and 7 of their last 10. Meanwhile the Lakers have just lost three in a row while losing 8 of 10. Jokic is a no-go but I still fully expect a Nuggets win. Jameer Nelson has been playing very well since the collapse in Minnesota and Jamal Murray (who is uncertain to play) is coming off a very efficient 18 points on 7-10 shooting game after getting over twenty minutes in Phoenix. Those two along with Will Barton could be looking at big games against the poor defending backcourt of LA. It looks to be another high-scoring game coming for Denver with two of the worst defenses in the NBA involved here. I would hope for Jamal Murray to play at least 20 minutes again and I expect Gallinari to lead Denver to their fourth straight win.
The Lakers are trying to break out of their 4 game skid and I think that tonight’s game against Denver is the perfect remedy. There are a few reasons for this, but the first (and probably most important) reason is because Nikola Jokic will not play tonight. The skilled Serbian big man is out recovering from a left hip strain, and while I wish no injury on anyone, his absence will be a big boon for the Lakers. Why? Because last time the teams matched up he ABSOLUTELY KILLED THE LAKERS. In their first matchup Jokic burned L.A. to the tune of 29 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. The Lakers simply couldn’t contain him and the Nuggets recognized that as they ran the offense through Jokic down the stretch to hold off the comeback effort. Tonight, Jusuf Nurkic will probably get the start, and while he does pose some challenges, they aren’t as lethal as what Jokic would have provided.
On the Lakers side, two developments are in their favor. One is the return of D’Angelo Russell. After missing the last three games, Russell is cleared to return and should make his return tonight. He had been missed. In the three games he’s missed, the Lakers have struggled to score, averaging only 86.3 points without him and losing all three in the process. Coach Walton is excited to see his potential return, saying: “If he’s cleared to play, we expect what we always expect out of him.” With D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers starting five of Russell, Luol Deng, Timofey Mosgov, Randle and Nick Young have had the 5th highest net rating at 11.8 since December 7th. The first? The Golden State Warriors.
The second development is the ascension of Ivica Zubac. His coming out party actually came against Denver when he put up a 11-13-3 stat line and held up well against Jokic. He’s since put up another double-double against Utah and has had some additional strong performances. Zubac should have a strong performance against Denver and with the absence of Jokic, his impact should really be felt.
I think the Lakers will defend home court and pull this one out. Nick Young will come out with a sneaky good performance, Russell will penetrate to the rim with ease and Zubac will dominate the boards. Lakers win by a 6-8 point spread.
Garrett- Dig in Denver:
Nuggets, Lakers. Man, every time I see those two teams together it brings me back to my roots of NBA cyber battles! I remember getting on ESPN article comments and just going to war with Laker fans. Granted, that was when both teams were relevant. Melo was entering his prime with a hungry Allen Iverson joining him while Kobe was playing at a level that had everyone questioning “who is number one of all time.” Oh, how the times they have changed. The Lakers are playing some pretty bad basketball this year, which is understandable while riding the rebuild bus. I do really like LA’s young core of Randle, Russell and Ingram. Even though D’Angelo may need to take a few classes on being a competent adult, the Lakers young core looks strong and another lottery pick this year will surely put the rebuild bus into fifth gear. The Nuggets limp into this contest needing a win before they enter a difficult stretch with their schedule. LA could make things interesting and could even steal a win from the Nuggets. I still expect Denver to pull away 112-104 with Gallinari carrying his strong performance from Saturday. I also hope we can all witness a nice battle of Murray and Russell at the point. If LA is going to win this game, it will be because of a strong performance from a guy like Ingram and because Jameer Nelson shot the Nuggets out of the game. Cheers.
Nuggets Stats: Lakers Stats:
PPG: 110.3 PPG: 103.6
FG%: 46.3 FG%: 44.4
RPG: 46.5 RPG: 43.9
APG: 24.2 APG: 20.5
Last 10: 7-3 Last 10: 2-8
Keys to the Game, Courtesy of @SeanMEnglish:
In their last outing against the lakers, the Nuggets out rebounded LA 45-43. However, the Lakers dominated the offensive glass, out rebounding the Nuggets 20-13. Limit second change opportunities.
It’s always important to get off to a hot start, but especially against the Lakers. They rank 27th in opponent 1st quarter points. Last game against LA, the Nuggets were able o drop 40 points in the first quarter. Get going early.
Once again, Nikola Jokic will be out. Denver needs someone to step up in his absence. Look for big games from either Danilo Gallinari or Kenneth Faried.