The Denver Nuggets are on the West Coast in order to take on the Los Angeles Lakers in Denver’s fourth game of the season. The Nuggets come into this contest with a disappointing but maybe not-all-that surprising 1-2 record after losing a blowout game in Oklahoma City on Sunday night. They are playing a team in the Lakers that is also struggling, as they have yet to win a game this season. The Lakers will look to take advantage of their home court tonight in order to finally land in the win column, while the Nuggets will look to right the ship after two straight blowout losses.

Despite their struggles, the Lakers have seen some impressive performances from a couple of the younger players on the squad, including a 22-point, 15-rebound outing for forward Julius Randle in a loss against the Dallas Mavericks two nights ago. They won’t be an easy out as they are a team that consists of a future Hall of Famer in Kobe Bryant, three rising stars in Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, and a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Lou Williams. None of this seems to be adding up to make them a successful team so far, however, and the Nuggets should look at this game as an opportunity to gain back some confidence after a rough first week of the season.

The Basics:

Who: Denver Nuggets (1-2) at Los Angeles Lakers (0-3)

When: 8:30 PM MT

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

Where to watch: Altitude 2, NBA TV

Enemy Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Los Angeles Lakers Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG D’Angelo Russell Emmanuel Mudiay Nuggets
SG Jordan Clarkson Gary Harris Lakers
SF Kobe Bryant Danilo Gallinari Nuggets
PF Julius Randle Kenneth Faried Lakers
C Roy Hibbert Joffrey Lauvergne Even
Bench Lou Williams, Brandon Bass,
Ryan Kelly
, Nick Young, Marcelo Huertas
Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur,
Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Randy Foye

Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out), Joffrey Lauvergne, back (questionable), Kenneth Faried, back (probable), Nikola Jokic, back (questionable ), Larry Nance Jr., nose (questionable), Brandon Bass, eye (questionable)

Key Matchup: Emmanuel Mudiay vs. D'Angelo Russell

The primary match-up everybody will be watching tonight is the one between rookie point guards D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay. Russell was picked by the Lakers with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, while Mudiay fell to the seventh overall pick. As the two best point guards in the draft, it’s likely that the two will develop a rivalry going forward and it all starts tonight. Russell played a year in college for Ohio State while Mudiay was playing professionally overseas in China. This difference was probably a huge factor in Russell getting drafted first, as not many scouts had the opportunity to see Mudiay play, especially since he was injured and inactive most of the year.

Now, the two are playing in the NBA together and fans are excited to see which point guard will become the better professional. While it may be too early to tell, so far Mudiay has been having more of an impact on his team, averaging 12.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game. Russell's stats are at 9 points, 2.7 rebounds and only 1.7 assists a game. While Mudiay appears to be the future of the franchise in Denver, the attention in Laker Land seems more focused on Julius Randle than on the rookie point guard. Will Russell make a statement tonight going up against a potential rival?

Also, how’s this for a motivating factor for Mudiay?

Things to watch: Back issues for the frontcourt

The Nuggets frontcourt is already struggling with injuries, as Faried, Lauvergne and Jokic all have back issues. Faried played a limited 14 minutes against OKC, but he's listed as probable for tonight's game. Lauvergne and Jokic, meanwhile, are questionable and both left the OKC game early with a lower back strain. These injuries are concerning for a frontcourt that was already missing Jusuf Nurkic. Also, Chris Dempsey from The Denver Post brought up this scary thought on Twitter Sunday night:

Hopefully these guys are good to go for tonight, as facing Hibbert and Randle will be tough with an undersized lineup. A game where fans can’t watch Jokic and Lauvergne continue to shine would also be disappointing.

Key Question: Will the Nuggets’ offense get back on track against a team that is giving up an average of 115.7 points a game, second most in the NBA?

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