The Los Angeles Lakers will don their Showtime era throwback jerseys for the second time this season, hoping to go a perfect 2-0 in the uniforms. This time, it will be against the visiting Denver Nuggets, a team who is similarly positioned to the Lakers.
Denver is a young team with plenty of talent that has yet to realize its full potential. At 16-23, the Nuggets are firmly entrenched in the race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, though much like the Lakers, their youth seems like a crux that could ultimately keep them out.
The Nuggets are led by Nikola Jokic, the second year center who has become a favorite of many hardcore basketball fans. The sweet-passing center has gone under the radar due to his small market along with other factors but he is among the best young centers in the league, at a time when that position is undergoing a renaissance of sorts.
Jokic is not only performing well (13.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists in 25 minutes) but he is doing so in a highly entertaining fashion. His passes out of the post have drawn Magic Johnson comparisons, an apt juxtaposition as he faces a Lakers squad wearing the same jerseys Magic made famous.
The Nuggets are more than just Jokic, however. Their young talent rivals other cores, although some players (read: Emmanuel Mudiay) have more questions surrounding them than answers. In addition to those pieces, Denver has several key veterans playing important roles.
Danilo Gallinari is back after an injury-plagued season and scoring as efficiently as ever. Wilson Chandler has reinvented himself as one of the best bench players in the NBA after missing all of last year.
The Nuggets have the ninth best offense in the NBA (107 points per 100 possessions) and Jokic’s passing will be a massive advantage for them against a Lakers team that is susceptible to long stretches of unfocused defense. Doubling the big man in the post would be a death sentence as he could pick them apart.
Fortunately for the Lakers, Denver is almost as atrocious defensively as they are (they allow 0.1 points per 100 possessions fewer than the Lakers which is really an insignificant number on that scale.) This has the makings of a high-scoring game and whichever team can get the most stops in crunch time will likely come away with the win. Working to the Lakers’ favor is that the Nuggets are on their second night of a back-to-back and that the Showtime jerseys are magical, giving them a chance to break their four-game losing streak.
Tuesday’s game will tip off at 7:30 PM PST on Spectrum SportsNet and NBA TV nationally.