The Los Angeles Lakers came close to knocking off rivals the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors over the last two games before falling just short, and the losses are beginning to pile up. The Lakers will try to avoid a fourth consecutive setback when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Los Angeles, which must travel back home for a date with the Western Conference-best Houston Rockets on Sunday, gained confidence by taking the Warriors to overtime and continue to be impressed by rookie Lonzo Ball despite his shooting struggles. “The difference when he’s out there pushing the ball, whether he’s shooting it or just he’s creating that pace for us by throwing the ball ahead, is everything for our team’s success,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Times of Ball. “And when he’s doing that and he’s getting in the paint and getting our offense early, we’re just such a better team.” The Nuggets waited until the final seconds to dispatch the NBA-worst Chicago Bulls on Thursday to continue a trend of trading losses and wins over the last eight games. Denver had star center Nikola Jokic go down with an ankle injury in the win.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles), Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE LAKERS (8-13): Ball isn’t the only young player putting up impressive performances of late, and small forward Brandon Ingram was the star of Wednesday’s loss to the Warriors. Ingram went off for 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting and added three steals and two blocks at the other end while going up against former MVP Kevin Durant for most of the night. Ingram, 20, is 22-of-38 from the floor over the last three games and scored in double figures in seven straight contests to raise his season scoring average to 15.7 points.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (12-9): Jokic fell to the floor in pain but x-rays revealed no break and he was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. “Thank goodness it’s only a sprain,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone told reporters. “Good thing is, he’s not an athletic big, so he doesn’t have to jump a lot.” Will Barton, whose driving layup with 3.2 seconds left proved to be the game-winner on Thursday, picked up some of the scoring slack with 37 points on 13-of-19 shooting, leading Malone to refer to him as “Thrill Barton.”
1. Nuggets PG Jamal Murray is 1-of-16 from 3-point range over the last four games.
2. Los Angeles SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 or more points in each of the last four games.
3. Denver took two of the three meetings last season, including a 129-101 drubbing at home on March 13.
PREDICTION: Nuggets 121, Lakers 118