August 10: Denver Nuggets versus Los Angeles Lakers
In this Western Conference battle, the Nuggets enter with the third best record on the conference at 46-24, while the Lakers are on top with a 51-18 record. Denver is coming off a win, and the Lakers have struggled, losers of their last three. Los Angeles is a 1 ½ point favorite with an over/under of 222 ½.
Examining the teams statistically, the Lakers are averaging 113.2 points per game and allowing the second fewest points in the league at 107 per game. The Nuggets are scoring just a little over 111 points per game and allowing the 10th fewest at 108.6. Neither team is great from long range, hitting around 35 percent from three-point range. Los Angeles has a 45.9 to 44.3 rebounding average, however the Nuggets are turning the ball over only 13.1 times per game compared to 14.7 for the Lakers.
Denver is led by one of the best all-around players in the NBA in Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 20.4 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists per game. Jamal Murray provides a very good secondary scoring option, dropping 18.9 per night.
Will Barton averages 15 points per game, while Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, and Jerami Grant each averaging in double-digits scoring. Millsap and Michael Porter Jr can hurt opponents from long range, hitting 43 percent from beyond the arc.
Clearly the Lakers are paced offensively by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, with the rest of the cast as purely supporting. Davis is averaging 26.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while the ageless James is averaging 25.4 points, 10.3 assists, and eight rebounds per game.
Kyle Kuzma (12.6 points per game), Dion Waiters (10.4 points per game), and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope (39 percent) are secondary players the Nuggets need to contain.
The Lakers lead the season series between the teams, 2-1. Denver has the most lopsided win by 24 points on December 22, while the Lakers have the only overtime win in their last meeting.
I see a lower scoring game as the Nuggets will try to slow the pace so as not to try to get into a shootout with the Lakers. Take the “under” and look for the Nuggets to win outright in a tight game.