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Lakers - Nuggets Preview: Bounce-back, or get bounced?

Last game was a typical serving of FAIL by our Los Angeles Lakers. I don't even want to talk about it, so just refer to our recap if you're a masochist. However, LA still somehow got the win, likely due to the fact you could replace the Minnesota Timberwolves squad with the Bakersfield Jam and a layman wouldn't notice the difference.Thus, last game is irrelevant and can successfully be incinerated from League annals. 

What does matter, however, is how the Lakers proceed from this point. They can either:

A: Have their inherent laziness boosted by the fact that they still won the game and thus do what they would have done last season and thus sink further and further into mediocrity before finally pulling out of their slump just in time to maintain high seeding in the West (and eventually win back the #1 seed)
Or B; Take Derek Fisher's words to heart, and come out even better than before, starting off by demolishing Denver; and roll with the #1 seed all the way through the season.

Both pathways have the same end result, so it doesn't really matter which one the Lakers take; but it will save the fans a lot of hair if they choose to take option B - something that seems likely with their new-and-improved bench.

Sssoooooo.... *checks schedule*..... The  Denver Nuggets, eh? Better than the Timberwolves? Yes. Formidable. Not really, at least not at the moment. They're a .500 team that's currently ranked 9th in the West and not turning any heads. Decent offensively and mediocre defensively, there's no real reason this team should give the back-to-back champions any trouble. 

Only two years ago, they were strong contenders in the Western Conference. Since then, injuries, cancer, locker room issues and a trade request have effectively marginalised this team to the point where they are unlikely more than first-round fodder.

Denver don't shoot that well from the field, at under 50% eFG as a team, are average at getting to the line, subpar on the offensive glass, and mediocre at sharing the rock, with a middle-of-the-pack assist rate. What they do do well, however, is shooting from deep (38.9%, 7th in the League) - they also take a fair amount of threes, shooting from the line (82.2%, 3rd in the League) and not turning the rock over (only 12.61 times out of 100, good for 3rd in the League).

The Lakers, conversely, are decent at defending the long-ball, don't foul at lot, and force turnovers. In other words, asides from occasional discrepancies on the defensive glass, they're perfectly built for taking down Denver (hell, they're perfectly built for taking down a lot of teams). The Lakers completely control the outcome of this game, it's essentially up to them whether they win or lose; and this outcome will say a lot about the Lakers of this season, by either reinforcing the notion of a 'new and improved' Lakers team with greater resolve in going for the Threepeat; or putting cracks in that perception with performances reminiscent of last year.

(On a side note, is it physically possible to be any more spoilt as basketball fans? This last year that we have often been looking back on with... less-than-contentment, we won a freaking Championship in. 'Nuff said.)

Carmelo Anthony is still Carmelo Anthony, and will likely be Ron Artest's toughest cover of the season so far, but he doesn't really have much help. Chauncey Billups is playing atrociously this year, with mediocre numbers and hideous percentages from the field and deep for a player of his calibre. Chris Andersen is yet to play this season, and Kenyon Martin is also out.

The only member of Denver's previously-formidable frontline active for tonight's game is Nene, and even he's been pretty average so far this season. This would certainly come as a relief to the Lakers' bigs, who've had problems with Denver's physical big men in the past. Currently filling in at Power Forward for Denver are Shelden Williams, a decent defender with little offensive skill; and Al Harrington, an undersized PF who doesn't really provide much except for (inefficient) scoring. Backing up Nene at Centre is Melvin Ely, a bit player at best.

Second unit sparks Ty Lawson and JR Smith have also underwhelmed this season, both scoring in single fiigures; but they have been somewhat compensated for by Aaron Afflalo's quietly good season, providing highly efficient scoring, particularly from deep, to complement his already excellent perimeter defense.

Quite simply, it's up to the Lakers whether or not they want to win this game. All we can do is watch. One way or another, we know how this will go.

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