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Preview: Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

January 05, 2014|By Eric Pincus
  • Nuggets Coach Brian Shaw gives instructions to forward Anthony Randolph in a recent game against Portland.
Nuggets Coach Brian Shaw gives instructions to forward Anthony Randolph… (David Zalubowski / Associated…)

The Lakers (14-19) will host the Denver Nuggets (15-17) on Sunday night at Staples Center.

The Nuggets have actually struggled more than the Lakers recently, dropping eight of their last 10. The Lakers finally ended a six-game losing streak with a win Friday over the Utah Jazz, their third win over their last 10.

Denver will play without reserve point guard Andre Miller, who was originally suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. While the suspension (and financial penalty) was lifted, Miller will still miss Sunday's game in Los Angeles.

Coach Mike D'Antoni will start forward Wesley Johnson, who missed a game with gastroenteritis before coming off the bench Friday as he worked his way back from a difficult few days. Guard Nick Young will return to the bench.

Kendall Marshall will get his second start at point guard, in the absence of Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring). Also out are guard Kobe Bryant (knee) and forward Xavier Henry (knee).

The Nuggets will be without center JaVale McGee (tibia), forward Danilo Gallinari (knee) and Miller.

Key matchup

Marshall truly had a brilliant night Friday, stunning the Jazz with 20 points, 15 assists and six rebounds — all career highs.

The 22-year-old point guard was in the NBA Development League just weeks ago.

Can he deliver again against Ty Lawson and the Nuggets?

It's too much to expect that kind of line from Marshall, but if he can continue to help organize the Lakers' offense and hit outside shots, he gives L.A. a real option at a position that has seen injury after injury.

Lawson is a difficult cover, averaging 17.7 points and 8.1 assists per game. In a Nov. 13 win over the Lakers, he scored 19 with seven assists.

The Lakers are going to need to give a lot of help if Marshall struggles to stay in front of the lightning-quick Lawson.

X-factor

Center Timofey Mozgov was huge in Denver's win over the Lakers in November, when he scored 23 points off the bench to go with nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

The Lakers can't let Mozgov, who averages 8.4 points a game, have another monster night.

Pau Gasol certainly looked like himself Friday against the Jazz, finishing with 23 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks.

Gasol recently sat out with bronchitis and a sinus infection. While he's still on antibiotics, his condition has improved significantly. He has also progressed through an ankle injury.

The Lakers need a lot from their big man as a shooter, playmaker, insider scorer and defender.

Outlook

The Lakers are hoping to climb back to .500, giving the team a chance to make the playoffs once Bryant and the rest of the guards return from injury.

The Nuggets are vulnerable but talented.

If Marshall can string together back-to-back strong performances as the team's emergency point guard, the Lakers have a real chance Sunday night against a team they need to overtake in the standings to have a shot at the playoffs.

ALSO:

Lakers might have a gem with Kendall Marshall on a two-year contract

Conflicting 'reports' on status of Pau Gasol trade to Cavaliers

Pau Gasol is still a Laker as of morning shoot-around

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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