Believe it or not, the Lakers are currently one of the hottest teams.
They’ve won five games in a row and it’s the second current longest streak as of this writing. Only the Memphis Grizzlies have a longer run right now at 6 games. Yeah, they’re still 11th in the West but it’s a tightly contested conference. They’re actually only two games behind the 5th-seeded Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers are going to keep the party going by taking on what has become a familiar foe. For the fourth and final time in this regular season, they’re gonna face the Denver Nuggets.
L.A. has beaten Denver twice in what are now landmark games in this campaign. Their first win against the Nuggets was also their first win overall for the season. Their second win was on Dec. 16. It became a surprising blowout… and it was also the game where Anthony Davis hurt his foot. He hasn’t played since.
Denver did beat L.A. once. The Nuggets destroyed the Lakers in transition and dropped them to 0-4.
Things are a little different in January 9th, 2023. Denver is currently the #1 seed in the West at 26-13. They are 12-3 in their last 15 games so they’ve been pretty scorching as well. Their offense is still devastating as they are #2 in offensive rating, scoring 117.2 points per 100 possessions.
Of course, the game is easier when you’re led by Nikola Jokic, the two-time reigning and defending Most Valuable Player. His season continues to be next-level at 25.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 9.5 assists while shooting .613 from the field! Jamal Murray seems all the way back now. Michael Porter, Jr. is healthy. Aaron Gordon is having the best season of his career. While everyone is bunched up in the West, Denver is on top and it’s not far-fetched to say that this could be the year for them.
They do still need to work on their defense but they have risen a bit to 23rd in defensive rating (the Lakers are not far ahead at 21st themselves although they have missed Davis so much in that department). It’s a long season to go, though, and they have time to get better on that end.
In the first game, Denver ran the Lakers off the court. In the second, the Lakers finally showed they can actually score (they looked really bad early and now it’s quite the opposite; they can put in buckets but can’t stop anybody). And in their last match-up, the Lakers came from 12 down in the third and had a huge fourth period to get the win.
What the Lakers do have to do, though, that I haven’t mentioned yet is… take care of the ball. In this 5-game win streak, the Lakers have turned the ball over an average of 16.6 turnovers. They really can’t afford to give the high-powered Denver offense a lot of extra possessions.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets are the only team shooting above 40 percent from three. They have the second least three-point attempts but they sure make them count. So the Lakers must do what they can on preventing them from getting hot behind the arc.
LeBron James was downgraded to questionable in the morning (UPDATE: LeBron is now listed as out.). It is the Lakers’ third game in four nights, after all. The only rotational player for Denver that is out is Jeff Green. Everyone else should be available for them.
This is the Lakers’ chance to get one game below .500, which hasn’t been the case since… they were 0-1. This also marks the 41st game for the Lakers so after this, the first half of the season will be done. It has been quite the rollercoaster for these Lakers and they have a chance to do some damage in the second half with whatever team they’re going to carry for the rest of the season.
But first, take care of biz at the Mile High City.