Nuggets At Lakers preview: Kobe Bryant hurt, Afflalo soaring (8:30pm MT)

"You gotta dunk that sh!t!" -Anger Management.
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Recently, your starting shooting guard for the Denver Nuggets, Arron Afflalo, did something that he hadn't done in quite some time - he dunked the basketball. In fact, when you go to YouTube and enter "Arron Afflalo dunks", you don't get a single highlight from this season! And the second highlight is from a videogame! Afflalo has been dunking more recently and coincidentally that killer attitude has now leaked over into all aspects of his game as he has been tearing it up for the Nuggets since the All-Star break.

Kobe Bryant ... well, he hasn't been soaring - lately.

Game: 59

Records:
Denver:
32-26 (14-14 on the road)
Streak: Won 2
LA Lakers: 37-22 (23-6 at home)
Streak: Won 2

Injuries:
Denver
: Wilson Chandler (left hip strain) is questionable, has missed the last six games. Al Harrington (torn meniscus) is probable.
LA Lakers: Kobe Bryant (left shin, karma) is day-to-day. Andrew Bynum (left ankle sprain, temper tantrums) and Ramon Sessions (sprained left shoulder) are both probable. Jordan Hill (MCL sprain in right knee, bustitis) is questionable.

Television: Altitude

Season Series: 2-1, Lakers

Opposition's Take: Silver Screen and Roll

The Nuggets have a chance to even the season series with the Lakers tonight in Los Angeles. We've seen George Karl's offense explode the last two games as Denver has put up 123 points and 113 points, their most in back-to-back games since Jan. 21st and Jan. 25th when they put up 119 points versus the Knicks and 122 points versus the Kings.

The return of Danilo Gallinari has definitely helped the offense as he often requires the attention of more than one defender and he's always looking to take advantage of what the defense gives him. There is no question that Afflalo has benefited from Gallo's return, but AAA has been playing well since about mid-Febuary.

In January AAA averaged just 10.2 points per game (ppg), Febuary 15.1 ppg, March 17.5 ppg, and 19.6 ppgs through six games in April. He's peaking at just the right time and has been figuring out ways to carry the team in the absence of Gallo (and Nene, while he was in town).

This is the point in the season where we will begin to see the guys who were playing a lot of minutes early in the year benefit from the experience of the long-season. Afflalo has been looking great and so has Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson.

Faried earned the trust of his coach and is now a battle tested player, no longer a rookie. Lawson has been lighting up the scoreboard and learning a new role on the team - from distributor and spot scorer to clutch performer. Lawson knocked down a key pair of free throws against the Timberwolves and earlier in the year he hit some big shots to win games for this team.

As guys like Gallo (and hopefully Wilson Chandler) get back, the team is beginning to show signs of health as well. On the opposite side of the court tonight, Kobe Bryant is ailing. The folks over at Silver Screen and Roll did a great job profiling Kobe's recent injury past, or lack thereof.

Bryant has missed his team's last three games, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Black Mamba slither out of his hole and play this evening. It seems like Kobe enjoys beating George Karl and your Nuggets. Before suffereing the shin injury, Kobe was averaging 30.8 points in four games in April. If Kobe plays, don't expect him to have a lot of rust ... just the way things go for the Nuggets. But if Kobe doesn't play, the Nuggets will need to focus on Metta World Peace, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol.

Gasol put up a tricky good game in the Lakers most recent win over the San Antonio Spurs as he put up 21 points, but took 24 shots to get there (9-24). World Peace, or as I keep typing "World Peach" (he is round), had a turn-back-the-clock game with a team-high 26 points, and Bynum had 16 points and 30 rebounds (22 on defense and 8 on offense).

The Nuggets will get their first look at the Ramon Session led Lakers and the bench is led by former Nugget Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Josh McRoberts. The Lakers look old on paper and don't appear to be the scary team they once were, but Bynum has feasted on the Nuggets this season (23 points and 13 rebounds in the three games) and is playing the best ball of his career. It'll be up to Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee to try to stop him.

Faried will have his hands full trying to cover Gasol, but the Manimal could have a field day running down court against this Lakers plodding front-court. Gallo's height should bother World Peace, Sessions will have a hard time with Lawson on offense, and the Nuggets could easily earn a win in LaLa land.

It'll be a late one tonight, Go Nuggets!

Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons
ntimmons73@yahoo.com

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