Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu – Associated Press
The Denver Nuggets look to snap a two-game losing streak as they welcome Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers to the Pepsi Center.
Where: Pepsi Center – Denver, CO
When: 7 p.m. MST
Watch/Listen: Altitude Sports and Entertainment – Altitude Sports Radio AM 950
The Nuggets were flying high last week after victories over the Grizzlies and Cavaliers, but they’ve run into a wall as of late. After a disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, the Nuggets followed it up with another tough loss Wednesday night against the Cavaliers. The two-game losing streak has put the Nuggets at the ninth spot in the West and they’re now tied with the Clippers and Jazz for spots 8-10. With a record of 35-30, the Nuggets are tied in the record column with the Jazz, but are still in ninth place by virtue of tiebreakers.
With the Nuggets embarking on a seven game road trip in just over a week, the next five games will become almost “must wins.” The Nuggets matchup against the Lakers on Friday night is the start of a five game stretch where they play the Kings, Lakers, Pistons, and Grizzlies. Neither of those five teams are above .500, and are games the Nuggets desperately need to win.
Even with the Lakers being one of the worst teams in the West for most of the season, they’ve recently caught fire and have won six of their last seven games. The recent hot streak has pushed the Lakers record to 29-35, which is good for eleventh place in the Western Conference. Lonzo Ball has been a huge part in the teams recent success averaging 12.3 points, six assists, and 5.8 rebounds in the Lakers last six games. Ball has shot 50 percent from behind the arc in his last five games and made six threes against the Spurs in a Laker victory last Saturday.
Isaiah Thomas has been a strong contributor for the Lakers ever since the trade from the Cavilers and is averaging 16.1 points per game in 10 games with the Lakers. Thomas is also averaging 5.5 assists per game and is shooting over 33 percent from behind the three-point line. The Lakers will still be without their leading scorer Brandon Ingram for Friday’s night game as Ingram was diagnosed with a groin strain last week. Ingram’s injury clears the way for Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma to get more minutes Friday night against the Nuggets.
Even with a disappointg loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Wednesday night, the Nuggets still had a strong game from Nikola Jokic in one of his best games of the season. Jokic scored 36 points on 12-14 from the field and was 10-11 from his free-throw line, which is a strong indication of how aggressive Jokic was playing on the offensive end of the floor. Jokic has only played in one game vs. the Lakers this season and was ejected after playing just 12 minutes. Jokic will matchup against Lakers center Brook Lopez for most of the night, whose coming of a strong game of his own scoring 27 points against the Magic just a couple nights ago.
Another side note for Friday’s game is that it’ll be the first time these two teams have played since the Jamal Murray-Lonzo Ball incident.
Jamal Murray dribbles the ball around Lonzo Ball. Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram wasn’t happy about that.
— NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) December 3, 2017
That play sparked some fireworks between the two teams and could be something that rekindles during Friday nights game. Murray’s averaging 19 points per game in two games vs. the Lakers this season and is now averaging 16 points per game on the season. Murray hasn’t scored over 20 points in any of the Nuggets last seven games, and will look to get his offense back on track vs. the Lakers.