Nikola Jokic is out, Paul Millsap is out, Wilson Chandler is hurt…and yet the season still marches forward. The Denver Nuggets have suffered injuries to the most important players on the team throwing their entire offensive and defensive systems into limbo. They’ll have to adapt on the fly as the Los Angeles Lakers come to Pepsi Center tonight for one more game before the Nuggets head out on a 6 game road trip.

It was of course the game against the Lakers in LA just over a week ago that started the run of injuries with Julius Randle swatting down on Millsap’s wrist resulting in torn ligaments. The Lakers went on to win that game easily so despite the injury woes, the Nuggets should be looking for some payback. The Lakers are very similar to Denver in terms of roster construction. Their core is built around a group of talented young players that are supported by some solid veterans. Pre Jokic/Millsap injuries the Nuggets had the advantage in overall talent but now, it’s anybody’s guess.

The Basics

Who: Los Angeles Lakers (8-13) at Denver Nuggets (12-9)

When: 7:00PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950

Rival Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Position Nuggets Lakers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Lonzo Ball Even
SG Gary Harris Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Nuggets
SF Will Barton Brandon Ingram Nuggets
PF Wilson Chandler Larry Nance Jr. Even
C Mason Plumlee Brook Lopez Even
Bench Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley, Trey Lyles, Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Corey Brewer, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma Lakers

*Starting lineups are a guess.

Injured players: Wilson Chandler – questionable (back), Nikola Jokic – out (ankle), Paul Millsap – out (wrist), Kyle Kuzma – questionable (back)

Key matchup:

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Key thing to watch for: can Will Barton carry the Nuggets?

With Jokic and Millsap sidelined, Barton becomes the clear top offensive threat on the roster. He was able to carry Denver to a win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday and while he may not have to score 37 points tonight there’s little doubt he’s going to have to be big for the Nuggets in order for them to get the win. It will be interesting to see how coach Malone deploys Barton. There’s certainly an argument to be made that Barton should start and with the Nuggets losing so much scoring in their starting lineup I think there is a good chance that he does.

Opening thought: Now we get to see what this team is made of

Jokic is really good, we know that. Millsap is really good, we now that. What we don’t know is how the young core of the Nuggets responds when put into the difficult situation of having neither those guys. Can Gary Harris fill the loss in play creation? Can Murray gain enough consistency to keep the Nuggets offense afloat? Will Chandler break out of his funk and be the veteran leader on and off the court? All of these guys are capable of answering those questions with a “yes” but time will tell if they actually will do it. Stay tuned.

Prediction: Nuggets 98 – Lakers 105.