Denver Nuggets (-1, 207.5 o/u) at Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers (0-3, 0-2 Home) are having a rough start to the season, dropping three straight to begin the 2015-16 campaign. The squad will look for its first win tonight when they host the Denver Nuggets (1-2, 1-1 Away) at the STAPLES Center (10:30 PM Eastern).
The play of Kobe Bryant has been a big part of the problem for the Lakers in the early going. The Lakers superstar is hitting on just 31-percent of his shots from the field and has Player Efficiency Rating of 14.3. (That’s not good for the guy who’s the focal point of a team’s offense.)
“We suck. I suck. I just can’t make a shot,” said Bryant, who was given the day off on Monday. “I’m getting the shots I want. I’m just not making them. The guys are giving me the ball and making great passes. It’s their job to facilitate and my job to finish. I gotta do the responsible thing and make them for them.”
As bad as Bryant has been so far, it’s the LA defense that has been the bigger problem. The team is scoring 106 PPG, but surrendering just over 115 (second-last in the league), and was torched for 132 points by the Kings last Friday (132-114).
Los Angeles followed up the dismal performance against Sacramento with another double-digit loss to the Mavericks (103-92).
The Denver Nuggets aren’t off to a roaring start, either, losing badly to the Timberwolves (95-78) and Thunder (117-93) after surprising the Rockets in their opener (105-85).
Unlike the Lakers – and unlike last year – the Nuggets’ problems come on the offensive side, averaging only 92.0 points per game and shooting just 34.2-percent from the floor (including 14 of 51 from three in their last two games).
The Nuggets are missing Wilson Chandler (right hip strain) and Jusuf Nurkic (left patellar tendon injury), but aren’t making excuses.
“[E]verybody is tired, everybody gets injuries, everybody gets banged up,” head coach Michael Malone said to the Denver Post. “So you still have to find a way.”
In an intriguing game-within-the-game, this matchup will feature the top two point guards taken in the 2015 draft: Los Angeles’ D’angelo Russell and Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay has looked like the better pro so far, averaging just over 12 points and five assists per game, compared to nine points and a concerning 1.7 dimes for Russell.
Though the Lakers aren’t inspiring any confidence so far, they’re bound to get their first win sooner or later. Facing a similarly weak Denver side at home looks like a recipe for success, especially given how they’ve dominated the Nuggets at home in recent memory (15-8 SU in their last 23 against Denver at home). Take LA and the single point.
Pick: Lakers +1.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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