Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (7, 204.5)
The Los Angeles Lakers have achieved the first of their many goals for the remainder of the season. Next up is a victory over the host Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Los Angeles made a triumphant return to the .500 mark on Christmas Day, getting 34 points from Kobe Bryant and 11 assists from Steve Nash in a come-from-behind win over the New York Knicks. The Lakers have won five straight but will be in tough to extend that run against a Nuggets team sporting an 8-1 home record.
Denver is in the midst of four games in five days, and it kicked off the grueling stretch with a 112-100 loss to the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers. The Nuggets were done in by a 42-point second quarter as they fell for just the second time in the last six games. Considered one of the early-season contenders for a top-four seed in the Western Conference, Denver has lacked the consistency of front-runners Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Memphis and are struggling on the defensive end.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Time Warner SportsNet (Los Angeles), Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE LAKERS (14-14): Much has been made about the struggles of the Lakers' offense despite the addition of two star free agents in Nash and Dwight Howard and a new head coach in Mike D'Antoni. Yet, while it remains to be seen how the Lakers' loaded lineup will jell on the offensive end, it has shown flashes of stardom on defense. Los Angeles limited the Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks to just 14 fourth-quarter points, allowing Bryant and Nash to pull out the victory. With three defensive stalwarts on the roster in Bryant, Howard and Metta World Peace, Los Angeles is a tough team for most opposing scorers to face.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (15-14): Teams have figured out that one of the best ways to handle the Denver defense is to fire away from beyond the arc. The Nuggets are fifth-worst in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage against, and the Clippers exploited that weakness by connecting on 11 of 25 attempts in their Christmas Day victory. Denver continues to roll along offensively despite Danilo Gallinari's recent struggles. The Italian forward is mired in a horrible slump, having made just six of his last 31 shot attempts - highlighted by a 1-for-10 clunker against the Clippers, his second such effort in three games.
* Lakers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games following a win.
* Nuggets are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games.
* Over is 7-1 in Lakers’ last eight vs. NBA Northwest foes.
* Over is 4-0 in Nuggets’ last four vs. NBA Pacific opposition.
1. The Lakers have dominated the head-to-head series of late, eliminating Denver from the 2012 playoffs and cruising to a 122-103 victory in their first meeting this season.
2. Denver is 3-12 when allowing 100 or more points.
3. Bryant averages 24.8 points in 55 career regular-season games against the Nuggets.