Preview: Lakers try to strike gold against Nuggets

Feb 12, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) reacts after dunking the ball in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers will try to correct course against the Denver Nuggets on Monday in a battle between two of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Lakers have of course locked up the top seed for the playoffs, while the Nuggets are still in a battle for the second seed with the Los Angeles Clippers while holding off the Houston Rockets from the third seed.

The Purple and Gold have struggled so far in the bubble on offense but had a good performance on Saturday against the Pacers despite a 116-111 loss.

Since the seeding games don’t matter for the Lakers, head coach Frank Vogel has stated that the team will use the remaining regular-season games to experiment with the rotation before setting one in stone for the first round. Talen Horton-Tucker and Quinn Cook both had great games the last time out and could potentially be fighting for playoff minutes in these final few matchups. Vogel also stated on Sunday that starter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would be out for Monday’s game.

Anthony Davis will also be looking to have a better performance on Monday following a rough individual game against the Pacers. Davis has largely been the most consistent player for the team in the bubble but was unable to reach the free-throw line on Saturday, attempting just two shots from the charity stripe.

The Nuggets are coming off of a double-overtime victory over the Utah Jazz which saw Nikola Jokic score 30 points. The team had a poor night behind the 3-point line, going just 9-of-37. The Nuggets won the battle of points in the paint with 74 – 40 more than their opponents.

Denver recently paid tribute to Elijah McClain, a young man who was murdered by Aurora police officers last August, by wearing “Justice for Elijah McClain” shirts for warmups. Discussions of police brutality have been front and center during the NBA restart and the Nuggets were showing support for the family of the late-23-year-old who was walking home from a convenience store. The Nuggets’ head coach, Mike Malone, has been no different in this vocal approach, especially regarding McClain.

“Because this is Aurora, this is our backyard, these are the people that we represent on the court every night, I just felt really strongly about trying to do something where we could honor Elijah McClain, his memory, his name, his family,” Malone told The Denver Post. “If the police cameras were not conveniently all knocked off the night of Aug. 24, when he was arrested, 2019, maybe it would’ve been a little bit more sensationalized, like George Floyd’s was, because everybody would’ve seen it. But that didn’t happen. It’s truly a tragic event.”

Members of all NBA teams have been vocal about police brutality events, including the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that have sparked protests across the country.

The Lakers are the “home team” in Orlando with a 6 PM PST start on TNT and Spectrum Sports Net.

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