The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets in a showdown between the top two teams in the Western Conference standings. The Lakers come into this one atop the conference, but the Nuggets have closed the gap to just three games.
This is going to be an exceptional battle between two elites in the Western Conference, and it is a potential matchup of the conference finals. The Lakers have continued to keep it rolling, with the losses hardly even showing up on the season.
There will finally be some positive talk about Rajon Rondo from fans after his 23-point effort on 9-of-13 shooting in the Lakers’ last win. LeBron James continues to do an exceptional job, and all of their bigs are getting the job done.
The Nuggets finally cleared space in their rotation for things to be consistent with a big deadline trade. And a second small deal also made them better. They brought in Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh (yet to play) and instant offense-maker Jordan McRae.
With Michael Porter Jr. continuing to sit with his ankle injury, more opportunities are there for Bates-Diop and McRae to come in and provide energy. Former Oklahoma City wing PJ Dozier is also getting a fantastic opportunity at his first significant playing time in this league.
The visiting Lakers are 1.5-point favorites in Denver, with the over/under set at 219.5.
Looking To Widen The Gap
The Lakers have been a tough out in each of their 52 games this season, as they now look to make it 53. James has excelled at the point guard spot for the first time in his career, while Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard have all played great basketball on both sides of the floor, finishing in close, blocking shots, and grabbing all available boards.
The Lakers may still bring in a facilitator/scorer before the March 1 deadline, with JR Smith and Dion Waiters the two most likely candidates. With Danny Green and Avery Bradley still struggling to make shots, it really can’t hurt to try.
The end goal for this team has to be the Finals, where James had been for eight years in a row prior to last season. He has never had to go through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference before, so this is uncharted territory. Keeping the top seed would help.
Continuing To Climb The Mountain
The Nuggets are always a tough bunch who don’t back down from anybody. That’s how they have achieved a 38-16 record in a year that has been marked by injuries to several key players.
Paul Millsap came off the bench last game and added 22 points in 19 minutes, so we’ll see if he retakes his starting spot from Jerami Grant in this one.
Nikola Jokic got off to a slow start this year but is now averaging 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, shooting 52 percent from the field. He has continued to just get better and better as a basketball player, leading this team to bigger and better things.
They’ll be even better when Porter comes back, but for now, look for McRae to be the one they look to for instant scoring off the bench.
Nuggets Surprise Lakers
Even as the home team, the Nuggets are an underdog, but Denver will pull out the win in this one. A nice W for Denver to finish the first half of the season on a high.
Free Play: DEN +1.5
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