The Denver Nuggets came into the season with high expectations and finally seem to be putting the pieces together to meet those expectations. The Nuggets will try to win for the fifth time in the last six games when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers for the opener of a three-game road trip on Sunday.
Denver exploded for its best offensive performance of the season on Friday, shooting 62.9 percent from the floor and knocking down 18-of-35 from beyond the arc in a 146-114 drubbing of the New Orleans Pelicans. “We had some great offensive possessions where the ball was just flying around the court generating completely open shots,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters after the game. “It was really beautiful to watch, when you play the game the right way, the way we did tonight.” The Lakers are losers of five of their last six but continue to draw attention because of point guard Lonzo Ball, who drew some criticism on Friday for ignoring an altercation between teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Phoenix Suns. “It’s the NBA,” Ball told reporters. “People ain’t really gonna fight. I ain’t trying to get no technical.”
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, Altitude (Denver), Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (9-6): Denver guard Jamal Murray is riding a hot streak and scored 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting in Friday’s win. The 20-year-old, who scored a career-high 32 points in a win over Orlando on Nov. 11, is starting at point guard of late and is trying to keep the offense moving at a fast pace. “We came out firing,” Murray told reporters after Friday’s win. “We were getting stops. We were running. Everyone was touching it, everyone was happy. We just had a lot of fun, put up a lot of numbers.”
ABOUT THE LAKERS (6-10): Ball is getting all the attention but fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma might be the better of the two, at least so far. Kuzma became the first Los Angeles rookie since Magic Johnson in 1979-80 to record at least 30 points and 10 rebounds when he hit those two marks on Friday, and he is averaging 16.4 points on 50 percent shooting and seven rebounds. Kuzma saw his role expand earlier this month when fellow power forward Larry Nance Jr. went down with a broken hand and figures to keep playing big minutes despite Nance, 24, coming close to a return after being cleared to practice.
1. Ball scored in single digits in each of the last three games and is 1-of-11 from 3-point range in that span.
2. Nuggets G Gary Harris went 9-of-11 from the floor on Friday — his first game back after missing two with a shoulder injury.
3. Denver took four of the last five in the series, with the lone loss in that span coming in the last trip to Los Angeles on Jan. 31.
PREDICTION: Nuggets 126, Lakers 113