Preview: Russell’s return highlights showdown with Nuggets

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The Lakers have not had an easy season so far and January has been an extension of that. After going 10-10 things have gone downhill for the Lake show due to injuries to key players and a tough schedule filled with back to backs and tons of road games.

Luckily for the Lakers they will be playing a home game against the Nuggets after four days of rest. On top of that, they’re getting back a key player in D’Angelo Russell who only had to miss a couple games due to injuries.

While the Lakers get back Russell for this game they may be without Julius Randle. He missed the last game due to being sick and it’s been confirmed that he had pneumonia. Though he has been cleared to return to action, he will not be available for the Lakers tonight.

Russell’s impact on the court has been extremely underrated for much of this season.

Replacing Russell is not possible as the Lakers do not have another player who can be the primary playmaker. Brandon Ingram may get there eventually, but the offense runs much better with Russell at the helm.

After a very strong start in January, Ingram has slowed down and has been less than stellar. While it’s not ideal, rookies aren’t very consistent so this doesn’t seem like a long-term problem.

Ivica Zubac on the other hand has been great as of late. When he plays more than 20 MPG this month his per 36 stats are 17.5 points/14.8 rebounds/1.7 assists/ 2.7 blocks. Those are impressive numbers, especially when you consider he’s a 19-year old rookie center.

His playing time has fluctuated  this month but in the last five games he’s played 25 minutes or more three times. If he plays significant minutes watch out for some more Zubac hype.

The Lakers are not the only teams that have to deal with key players being injured as Nikola Jokic will be out for Tuesday’s game due to a strained hip flexor. The Serbian center will be missed as it would’ve been fun to watch him and Zubac play against each other. Denver will miss his passing and scoring as he has put up a ridiculous stat line of 23/11/5 in January.

The game will air Tuesday on Spectrum SportsNet at 7:30 PM PST

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