Denver guard Ty Lawson drives Steve Nash during the Nuggets' 126-114… (David Zalubowski / Associated…)
The Lakers (15-17) will host the Denver Nuggets (19-16) on Sunday night at Staples Center.
Both teams have met once this season in their respective cities, where the home teams have emerged victorious. For the Lakers, currently in 11th place in the Western Conference, catching a team like the Nuggets would be a big step toward making the postseason.
In Denver's recent win over the Lakers, the victors scored 126 points, led by a surprising 27 from reserve Corey Brewer. The Nuggets are generally a high-scoring team, getting a lot out of transition, steals and offensive rebounds. Three-point shooting isn't their strength, but Denver hit 12 against the Lakers on Dec. 26.
In recent games, the Lakers have struggled to integrate Pau Gasol offensively and to get stops defensively. They'll need an improved effort to take a season-series lead over the Nuggets.
Kenneth Faried personifies effort. He scored 21 points with 15 rebounds against the Lakers in their last meeting. While he's not nearly as tall as Pau Gasol, Faried is quicker and more naturally aggressive.
The Lakers don't seem to look for Gasol often offensively throughout games, but with his height advantage Gasol should get opportunities in the post against Faried. The Lakers also are dangerous when Gasol is operating at the elbow as playmaker.
The Lakers need to keep a body with Brewer on the perimeter. He truly was the difference in their last meeting, spreading the floor and hitting long-range shots every time the Lakers threatened. Brewer is a capable defender and scores an average of 11.2 points per game.
Antawn Jamison might not play a single minute Sunday, but he should. Jamison didn't even enter the game in Denver, but on Nov. 30 against the Nuggets, the veteran had his best game of the season with 33 points and 12 rebounds.
Coach Mike D'Antoni gave Jamison a brief stretch in the first quarter Friday against the Clippers but the forward has otherwise been left out of the rotation.
Sunday might be the ideal game to give him another chance to burn the Nuggets.
Howard was questionable after tweaking his shoulder in a recent loss against the Clippers, but is expected to play.
The Lakers lost to the Nuggets in December on the second night of a back-to-back. Now, Denver comes in after hosting the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Pencil this one in as a hard-fought victory for the Lakers.
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.