LOS ANGELES LAKERS (20-46)
at DENVER NUGGETS (31-35)
Tip-off: Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: Denver -12.5, Total: 230.5
The Nuggets will be looking to inch closer to .500 with a win over the Lakers on Monday.
After snapping an eight-game losing streak on Thursday with a 122-110 win in Phoenix (LAL +6.5), the Lakers got back to their losing ways on Sunday night with a 118-116 home loss to the 76ers (PHI +5). The Lakers own the league’s second-worst record at 20-46, and the third-worst ATS record of 28-36-2. There will be no rest for the weary on Monday, when the Lakers fly to Denver for a matchup with the Nuggets in the second end of a back-to-back. The Nuggets last played Saturday night, pulling away in the fourth quarter to pull off a 105-92 road win over Sacramento (DEN -5). They had earned arguably their best win of the season the night before with a 119-99 win over the Celtics at home (DEN +2.5), where they’re 18-16 on the year. They are 31-35 overall (34-30-2 ATS), and they hold the West’s final playoff spot by a 1.5-game margin over the Trail Blazers. Over the last five seasons, road underdogs averaging at least 99.0 points per game (LAL) are 23-59 ATS against teams that led each of their last two games by at least 10 points at halftime (DEN). In the same timeframe, however, home teams allowing at least 103 points per game (DEN) are 43-74 against teams that have allowed at least 110 points in two straight games (LAL). PF Kenneth Faried is out indefinitely for Denver, while SF Wilson Chandler is probable and PG Jameer Nelson is questionable.
Of the Lakers’ young core, second-year PG D’Angelo Russell (15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 SPG) and rookie SF Brandon Ingram (8.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG) are considered the mostly likely players to turn into stars. While Russell is still very much in the learning and developing phase of his career, he’s also in a position where he’s leading his team in field goal attempts (13.6) and scoring. He had one of his best games of the year against Phoenix, scoring 28 points and grabbing three steals in a much-needed win. Ingram, on the other hand, is barely ready to be a contributor, even on a team this young. He has, however, played at least 35 minutes and scored at least 12 points in each of his last four games. He had a career-high 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting on February 26 against the Hornets. PF Julius Randle (13.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.7 APG) is looking good in his second full season, as he’s fifth among NBA power forwards in rebounds per game despite being somewhat undersized at 6-foot-9. He led the team against Philadelphia with 22 points and 12 rebounds. SG Nick Young (13.4 PPG) and SF Luol Deng (7.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG) bring veteran presences to the team, while PG Jordan Clarkson (14.3 PPG, 1.3 SPG), PF Larry Nance Jr. (6.8 RPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG) and C Ivica Zubac (6.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG) are all part of the youth movement. Clarkson had 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting off the bench against Philly.
Despite being selected seventh overall by the Nuggets last year, PG Emmanuel Mudiay (11.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.4 APG) has failed to make strides as a player in the way that Russell has for the Lakers. He’s only played in three of Denver’s ten games since the All-Star break, averaging about 10 minutes per game in those appearances. The disappointment of his tentative status as a bust is lessened somewhat by the emergence of another young player, C Nikola Jokic (16.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 4.6 APG), who already looks like one of the best centers in the league. He’s widely regarded as the NBA’s best passer at the position, as he posted back-to-back triple-doubles a few games ago in two Denver wins. He posted a 21-10-7 line in the win over Boston, and had 20 points and 14 rebounds against Sacramento. The team also added C Mason Plumlee (10.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.9 APG) in a recent trade to shore things up inside. Most of their talent is on the perimeter: Shooting guards Gary Harris (14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG), Will Barton (13.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.4 APG) and Jamal Murray (9.1 PPG) do different things well. Murray, a rookie, carries the most promise, and there’s been talk about starting him at point guard in the near future. Nelson (9.1 PPG, 4.9 APG) has been impressive at the position at the age of 35. Chandler (16.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and Danilo Gallinari (17.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG) are both key players at power forward. Chandler had 36 points and 12 rebounds in a win over Sacramento that came just over a week ago.