The Denver Nuggets are in Los Angeles to take on Lonzo Ball and the Lakers. The Nuggets are entering the game having won 8 of their last 11 games including a huge win over the New Orleans Pelicans in which they scored an NBA season-high 146 points. The Lakers enter the game having lost 5 of their last 6 including a Friday night home loss to the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers are young but still have some weapons. Kyle Kuzma looks like one of the best rookies in a loaded rookie class. Brook Lopez is still a talented center, Jordan Clarkson can score in volume, and Brandon Ingram is skilled enough to go off if defenses aren’t careful. The Lakers also rank 6th in the NBA in half court defense and 4th overall in DRTG. So while this is a game that Denver should win, it’s by no means a cakewalk.

Match-ups – Advantage in bold

PG: Jamal Murray vs. Lonzo Ball
SG: Gary Harris vs. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Wilson Chandler vs. Brandon Ingram
PF: Paul Millsap vs. Kyle Kuzma
C: Nikola Jokic vs. Brook Lopez

Key Match-up: Gary Harris vs. KCP

Harris and KCP have often been compared to each other since their per game statistics are remarkably close. Harris is by far the more efficient scorer but KCP has traditionally been the better defender.

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Can the Nuggets take their high-scoring offense on the road?

It appeared as thought the Nuggets found their footing on offense during their six-game homestand but they immediately lost all of their mojo once they ventured outside the friendly confines of Pepsi Center, suffering an embarrassing loss against Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland Trailblazers. They bounced back in a big way with their best offensive performance of the season when they returned back home to face the Pelicans so it appears as though the Blazers loss was just a hiccup in what appears to be Denver’s rise towards regaining their offensive punch. However, Denver has yet to play a great game in the half court on the road. Tonight will be a great test for whether or not they can find consistency in the half court. If they do, this game should end with a comfortable Denver win.

Has head coach Michael Malone found something with smallball?

Over the last few games, Malone has experimented with smallball lineups around Emmanuel Mudiay and Mason Plumlee. As I’ve explained in detail, lineups that feature both Mudiay and Plumlee require a lot of shooting in order to properly space the floor. The difference between playing those two without spacing and playing them with spacing is immense. That makes life difficult for coach Malone but the return of Juancho Hernangomez might be the key to unlocking more “stretchy” lineups.

A Saturday night in L.A.

For decades, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a secret advantage that wins them a handful of games each year: Saturday night in Los Angeles. Teams playing against the Lakers on Sunday night often look like a team that spent a few too many hours soaking up L.A.’s nightlife. As the start of a short road trip and the first game of a back to back, Denver will need all of the energy they can muster.

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