The Denver Nuggets have had a near perfect start to their season, with wins over the defending champion Golden State Warriors en route to a 4-0 start. The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had such a hot start, grabbing just one win in their first four games. The two teams meet on Thursday night for a game that will be broadcast on national television, something that is customary for the Lakers and somewhat rare for the Denver Nuggets.

For the Nuggets, the game offers an opportunity to keep momentum rolling. The team has looked better in every game so far this season, culminating in a blowout win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. It also provides an opportunity to showcase just how good they can be in front of a national audience. Only five teams remain unbeaten heading into Thursday night’s showdown in Los Angeles and Denver is one of them.

For the Lakers, the game is a chance to regain stability. Their blowout victory in Phoenix on Wednesday gave them a little boost but their three losses to open the season, all to Western Conference playoff contenders, is a small red flag for a team that seems flawed despite having the best player on the planet in LeBron James.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (4-0) at Los Angeles Lakers (1-3)
When: 8:30 PM MDT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to watch: TNT
How to Listen: Altitude Radio 92.5 FM
Rival Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

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Keys to the game

The bench

Mason Plumlee shot 15 for 18 in the two preseason games against the Lakers thanks in large part to their decision to play super small with their second unit. Plumlee dominated the boards and the paint and made it look easy along the way. Trey Lyles has been in a bit of a slump to open the season but in two preseason games against the Lakers, Lyles averaged 13 points, 6 rebounsd, and 5 assists in just 20 minutes per game. If he regains his preseason form, Denver’s bench can get to a whole new level.

Who can guard LeBron?

The answer is no one but hopefully Denver can find someone to at least slow him down. Torrey Craig has been the team’s defensive stopper at the small forward spot but he is outsized and outmatched against LeBron. The Nuggets will have to work extra hard as a five-man unit to keep Bron from going off.

Size vs. Speed

The Lakers like to play fast. They currently play at the 2nd fastest pace in the NBA. Denver can play fast but their strength lies in the halfcourt, where they can out-execute anybody and dominate the boards. This should create a high-scoring game with some pretty impressive individual numbers. Triple-doubles? 30+ point outings? It’s all on the table on the league’s biggest regular season stage.

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