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Preview: Nuggets walk down Hollywood Boulevard to battle Lakers

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The Nuggets team bus is more of an ambulance right now as they travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets are banged up as they go to sunny southern California to play the Lakers, but they’re riding a three-game winning streak as they take on one of the teams with the worst record in the league Tuesday night.

The Nuggets superstar, Nikola Jokic, is out with a hip strain, but he’s not the only player on the injury report. Emmanuel Mudiay is out with a back injury and didn’t travel with the team. Jamal Murray, Kenneth Faried, and Wilson Chandler are all probable as well with their own ailments and aches, which could leave the Nuggets quite short-handed in a game they normally should win.

The Lakers will be without two of their best young players in D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, and they’ve kept with their bench rotation by inserting Jose Calderon into the starting lineup along with Tarik Black. The Lakers are on a three-game streak of their own, but it’s a losing streak to push their record to 16-34.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (21-25) vs Los Angeles Lakers (16-34)

When: 8:30 PM MT

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

How to watch: Altitude TV and Altitude radio AM 950, League Pass (LOL)

Rival blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Position Nuggets Lakers Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Jose Calderon No one wins
SG Gary Harris Nick Young Nuggets
SF Danilo Gallinari Luol Deng Nuggets
PF Kenneth Faried Tarik Black Nuggets
C Jusuf Nurkic Timofey Mozgov Even
Bench Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac Nuggets

Key Matchup

Danilo Gallinari vs the Lakers “defense”. The Lakers have given up over 100 points in four of their last five games, including a 127-121 loss to the Nuggets two weeks ago. Jokic shredded the Lakers in that game, but he won’t be playing tonight.

The Nuggets could have a skeleton crew of players, and they’ll need Gallinari to put the team on his back once again like they did in their most recent game against the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers can really only contest Gallinari with Luol Deng, who is a smart, veteran defender. Gallo is familiar with Mozgov’s ability to protect the rim from their years playing together, and Black is one of the most foul-prone players in the league. Let the rooster feast.

One thing to watch

Beware the bench mob. While Luke Walton’s starting lineup is hindered with injury, he’s still decided to keep his second unit together. It’s a smart decision, because Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson are really talented scoring guards. The Nuggets may be without Jamal Murray, who missed practice yesterday with an illness. That could mean that Malik Beasley could see court time, which while exciting, isn’t great news for the Nuggets defense. A rookie with hardly any playing time going against two experienced scorers is a bad date.

On the other hand, if the Nuggets can find success against the bench unit, they should be able to keep a lead if the starters hand them one. If they can prevent the Lakers from getting back in the game, they should be able to pick up their first four-game winning streak of the season.

Prediction

The Nuggets are 3.5 point favorites for this game, but I have a bad feeling about this game. There are too many players that aren’t at 100 percent, and it’s a Los Angeles road game. There won’t be the Mudiay-Russell matchup, and no Jokic could be tough in this game.

Denver proved they can still score 120 on bad teams without the Joker, but I just don’t feel like it’ll happen tonight. I think it’s a close game, with the Lakers getting a homecourt whistle to help give them the edge, 114-112.