Photo by Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

The (3-2) Los Angeles Lakers are spending the first day of 2012 in Denver, Colorado for a rematch with the Nuggets.

The Lakers outlasted the Nuggets at Staples Center on New Years Eve. The Nuggets collapsed at the end. Ty Lawson missed two free throws (a team total of eight) and Danilo Gallinari blew a wide-open uncontested layup. The Lakers defense was solid holding the highest scoring team in the league to 89 points.

Andrew Bynum was a huge factor in his triumphant return to the starting lineup. Bynum filled up the stat sheet posting 29 points, 13 rebounds, one steal, and one assist and blocking two shots. Bynum’s big night, the defense and Kobe Bryant being one assist shy of a triple-double were important takeaway’s from last nights game.

However, the hustle play that Derek Fisher made by going after a loose ball, splitting two Nuggets players, diving on the floor, securing the ball and calling a time out after a terrible possession was just as huge.

Consider it proof that Derek Fisher may not be an all-star player, but he is a champion. In his 500th consecutive start Fisher is still diving on the floor, taking charges and doing things that help his team win games. To say that the Nuggets choked away Saturday afternoon’s game would be accurate, but that does not make it less dramatic.

Despite Bynum’s big night, the Lakers did not play well offensively. Their defense carried them, again. The Lakers out-rebounded the Nuggets (50-36), scored 46 points in the paint and posted 24 assists. L.A. shot a pedestrian 2-of-24 from behind the arc, the bench was outscored 37-16 and single-handedly outscored by Al Harrington (21 points)  and committed 19 turnovers that the Nuggets converted into 23 points. The Nuggets defense had a lot to do with the above-mentioned outcome.

The Lakers have to do a better job of ball movement and player movement to find a high percentage shot. The shot selection needs to improve; there is no need for so many three-point shots unless the shots are within the flow of the offense. Offensively, the Lakers need to continue to establish Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol in the post and allow them to set the table for the rest of the offense. Both Bynum & Gasol need to be aggressive and attack the basket.

The Lakers need to play with energy, control the tempo to limit fast break opportunities, stop the dribble penetration of both Ty Lawson & Andre Miller. Do a solid job defending the pick-and-role-play, get back in transition, out-hustle, out-work, out-rebound the Nuggets and quickly rotate out to open shooters.

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

Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST

Television -

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

Radio -

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

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Derrick Caracter (Torn Lateral Meniscus, Left Knee) Out
  • Kobe  Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Day-to-Day
  • Pau Gasol (Sprained Right Shoulder) Day-to-Day
  • Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Thumb & Left Big Toe) Day-to-Day
  • Matt Barnes (Bursitis, Left Hip) Day-to-Day

Nuggets:

  • None