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It’s Friday February 3, 2012 and the (13-9) Los Angeles Lakers are in Denver, Colorado tonight, the first stop on their 6-game Grammy road trip, to face the (15-7) Nuggets. The Denver Nuggets have the second-best record in the Western Conference. After beating the Clippers on Thursday night, the Nuggets are seeking a two-game sweep of Los Angeles.

If the playoffs started today, tonight’s game would be part of a first round series with the #2 seeded Nuggets facing the #7 seeded Lakers. The Nuggets and Lakers have split their first two games in this year’s season series with two meetings remaining.

The Lakers dropped last year’s season series (1-2) as well as the 2009-2010 season series (1-3) against the Nuggets, this marked the second time the Lakers have lost consecutive season series to the Nuggets (1977-78, 1978-1979). The Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 regular season games against the Nuggets. The Lakers are 3-7 versus the Nuggets in their last 10 games at the Pepsi Center.

After dispatching the Charlotte Bobcats, the Lakers start the longest road trip of this short truncated season on a 2-game winning streak. Two also represents the number of road wins that the Lakers possess.

The aftermath of the Lakers win over the Bobcats produced both good and bad things. The good, six players scoring in double-digits, the bench scoring 48 points, three reserves scoring in double-digits, 12 of their 13 players recording a basket, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol playing under 30 minutes, improved shooting 55% from the field, 46% from behind the arc and 91% from the free throw line.

The bad, despite starting two seven-footers offensive rebounding is still a problem, turnovers, surrendering leads and scoring from the small forward position is still a group effort. This road trip could be a season defining trip for the Lakers. The extended road trip gives the team time to bond, more practice time to work on their execution and improve the rotations.

The Lakers did an excellent job at moving the ball and moving bodies on their two-game winning streak and the spacing was good. The Lakers defense will determine their success or failure this season. The offense is still a work in progress but improving daily. The Nuggets present the Lakers with several difficult challenges that L.A. appears prepared to handle.

It is imperative that the Lakers are on the same page defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition, and make better decisions with the ball to eliminate turnovers and quickly rotate out to open shooters. Offensive rebounding is still an issue and it would behoove the Lakers to put a body on their men and then track down the rebound. The Lakers have to make rebounding a team effort tonight. The Lakers have to control to boards tonight to be effective.

L.A. has approach this road trip one game at a time and put forth their best team effort nightly. The Lakers need to adopt a “Us against the world” mentality and play every game like their last.

 

Starters
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Nuggets:
T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, N. Hilario, T. Mozgov 

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: KCAL 9 & ESPN (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
  • Denver: Altitude Sports & Entertainment & ESPN (Chris Marlowe & Scott Hastings )

Radio

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Denver: KKFN AM 950 (Jerry Schemel & Mark Bertagnolli)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Big Toe) Probable
  • Kobe  Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Probable
  • Steve Blake (Bruised Ribs) Out

Nuggets:

  • Ty Lawson (Sprained Ankle) Day-to-Day