Since December 25th, we've witnessed perhaps the best stretch of Kenyon Martin's career as he's averaged 15.1 points and 11.4 rebounds in 20 games while carrying the Nuggets to a 13-7 record. A Christmas present indeed, but tonight Denver could use another gift ... a win in Los Angeles.
The particulars ...
Denver: 33-16 (22-4 at home, 11-12 on the road)
Los Angeles Lakers: 38-12 (24-3 at home, 14-9 on the road)
Denver current streak: Lost 1. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games.
L.A. Lakers current streak: Won 1. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games.
Denver: (sprained left ankle) is listed as questionable and is a game time decision.
L.A. Lakers: Kobe Bryant (sprained left ankle / avulsion fracture, right index finger) is probable. Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.
Opposition's Take: Silver Screen and Roll (preview is up!)
I think Nuggets Nation is starting to get to the Lakers faithful. From the Silver Screen and Roll preview discussing the Lakers upcoming back-to-back against the Blazers and Nuggets:
" ... and that Denver hates us, and anything less than a 40-point blowout will fail to keep those Denver fans who happen to be Laker Haters (relatively) quiet. What fun."
The only problem with a rivalry that could potentially be there ... the Nuggets have yet to defeat the Lakers in a playoff series. The Nuggets are 0-5 versus the Lakers all-time in the post season with losses coming in; the 1979 mini-series (2-1 L.A.), the 1985 Western Conference Finals (4-1 L.A.), the 1987 1st Round series (3-0 L.A.), the 2008 1st Round series (4-0 L.A.) and last year in the 2009 Western Conference Finals (4-2 L.A.).
Los Angeles holds a 17-4 record over the Nuggets in the playoffs and that my friends is not a rivalry ... it's a bloodbath.
But like the wardrobe malfunctioning Janet Jackson's song says, "What have you done for me lately?"
The Nuggets hold a 1-0 record against the Lakers this season with a 105-79 drubbing on November 13th in Denver, but L.A. was missing Pau Gasol. Tonight the Nuggets will probably be without Carmelo Anthony, so the two teams will again not be at 100% for their prime time match up.
In the Nuggets most recent loss, to the Phoenix Suns, it appeared the team was running on fumes. Not having your leading scorer for a short stretch can be overcome with some outstanding pick-up-the-slack games from certain individuals.
In Melo's absence we've seen incredible performances from Arron Afflalo, Chauncey Billups, Nene, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin. But the Nuggets might be at the end of their rope in terms of being able to overcome not have #15 on the floor.
With just four games left until the All-Star break the Nuggets face some stiff (no pun intended) competition with a back-to-back beginning tonight in L.A., tomorrow in Utah and two homes games against the Mavs and Spurs next week. The Nuggets have to come out with at least a split in these four upcoming games so they can head to the All-Star break with some confidence and so they can retain their two game lead over Dallas for the second-seed in the West.
Before we start looking too far ahead, Denver faces a very good Lakers team tonight. Kobe Bryant has been bothered with a sprained ankle of his own, but he'll probably hobble through tonight's game. Chauncey Billups is also dealing with ankle issues and could use an easy game tonight (good luck). We're basically at the time of year where everybody is dealing with some type of physical ailment or mental one as 49 games have been played.
The Lakers hold the best home record in the NBA at 24-3 (Cleveland is 21-3) and the Nuggets have a chance to finally get to .500 on the road tonight.
Andy and I will be joining our fellow Stiffs at Chopper's this evening in Cherry Creek for what should be a great game and fun event.
Things to watch for tonight:
- I've been getting some Facebook notes and texts from some of my Laker fan friends. The best part about the first one I received this morning ... My friend Jen is from Arizona (um...shouldn't you be a Suns fan?) and couldn't probably name anyone on the Lakers team other than Kobe Bryant and Sasha "the Machine" Vujacic (girls in L.A. love the Machine). I guess the thing to watch for here is ... nothing.
- Carmelo Anthony: At the Suns game I was sitting just a few rows behind Julie Browman of Altitude TV and she had a mini television with the game feed on and I saw Melo doing a little in game interview with Hastings and Marlowe ... I immediately cursed myself for not recording the game as I have no idea what he was talking about, but I assume his injury was a hot topic as it has been here on Denver Stiffs. My take: I just wish that the Nuggets would list Melo as out and stop with all the game time decision stuff because it opens Melo up to criticism and speculation. There is nothing worse than having all this "will he play?" crap floating around the team. The Nuggets are in the hunt for the top seed in the West and Denver could use Melo, but the top seed isn't worth it if Melo were to come back early and sustain a more severe injury. I've never experienced a high-ankle sprain, but I've done some serious damage with basketball related sprains ... still have swelling from one that occurred about 4 years ago.
- Billups and K-Mart. The two savvy vets have been the glue holding the Nuggets together this season. Both guys looked a bit off against the Suns and have been shouldering major workload with Melo out. It's time for somebody else to step up. Denver needs a performance or two from Ty Lawson, J.R. Smith, Nene, Birdman or somebody else.
- Remember this: WATCH THIS VIDEO! I'll bet D.J. Mbenga does.
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: