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What to Watch For in the Nuggets Game Against the Lakers

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

There is always energy in the Pepsi Center when the L.A. Lakers come to town, but the buzz should reach epic levels on Saturday night because the Nuggets are also honoring a legend.

Lafayette “Fat” Lever is getting his number retired on Saturday night in a halftime ceremony. He was Mr. Triple Double before the stat had real cache and was a key member of some of the most exciting – and successful – Nuggets teams ever, back in the run-and-gun 1980s.

With the Lever’s jersey retirement as the primary energy current running through the night, the Nuggets will look to make it two straight wins, and win their 10th home game of the season. This is the second of four meetings between the Nuggets and Lakers, with the home team looking for a little revenge from a 127-109 loss suffered in Los Angeles on Nov. 19.

It won’t be easy.

The Lakers are a potent offensive team, ranking 13th in points, fifth in rebounding and third in assists. The Nuggets are playing this game without both Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap, who are out with injuries.

How can the Nuggets come out on top? Start with doing these three things…

Be solid in out-of-bounds and after-timeout defense: One of the areas the Lakers were really effective in during the first meeting was executing out-of-bounds plays, and scoring after timeouts. They scored on 10 of their 15 possessions after timeouts (including the opening jump ball), and scored on seven of their 12 sideline and baseline out-of-bounds plays combined. These are the hidden points in a game, where consistent stops can keep the Nuggets in the game or stretch out a lead if they have one. Shoring up this area from the Nov. 19 game would help the Nuggets chances to win immensely.

Finish defense with the rebound: The Nuggets were outscored 38-22 in the fateful second quarter in Los Angeles in the first meeting, but they did play decent initial defense. The Lakers, however, crashed the offensive glass and got a ton of second chance opportunities. They had six offensive rebounds and scored 11 second chance points in that quarter alone. The Nuggets must clear the defensive rebound when they force the missed shot.

Stay away from catastrophic quarter: The second quarter from the first matchup was mentioned in the category above, but it isn’t the only time the Nuggets have had one quarter put them in a tough spot. The third quarter in a loss at Utah. The first quarter in the win over Chicago. Every team makes a run in the NBA, but keeping those spurts to a minimum is the key for the Nuggets.

INJURY REPORT: Nikola Jokic (ankle) will not play in the game. … Wilson Chandler (back) is questionable for the game.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter