NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 31st (All times eastern)
Denver Nuggets (2-1) at Los Angeles Lakers (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The two-game slide to start the season is in the rearview mirror for the Los Angeles Lakers. They're now aiming for a third consecutive win in Saturday's showdown versus the Denver Nuggets in the opener of a home- and-home set at Staples Center.
The Lakers stumbled out of the gates to an 0-2 mark following losses to Chicago and Sacramento, but have ripped off back-to-back wins over Utah and New York to kick off a three-game homestand. In Thursday's 99-82 triumph over the Knicks, Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 28 points and Pau Gasol added 16 and 10 boards for Los Angeles, which shot 52.1 percent from the floor.
Steve Blake had 11 points and Josh McRoberts finished with 10 in the win.
"That was impressive," said Lakers head coach Mike Brown. "Our bench scoring was exciting. To see the scoring output was exciting."
Brown called a timeout with the Lakers trailing by a 19-14 score, and the team responded with a 13-0 run to grab the lead for good. Bryant, playing with a torn tendon in his right wrist, converted a four-point play late in the third quarter for a 78-63 advantage. He has scored at least 26 points in each of the Lakers' four games so far.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum is eligible to return Saturday against the Nuggets after serving a four-game suspension for his rough actions towards Mavericks guard Jose Barea during last year's playoff series. McRoberts has been filling in for Bynum down low and will most likely come off the bench today.
Denver, which will host the Lakers on Sunday at the Pepsi Center, had its season-opening two-game winning streak stopped with Thursday's 111-102 setback against the Northwest Division-rival Portland Trail Blazers.
In a battle of unbeatens, Ty Lawson scored 25 points and Arron Afflalo added 19 points for the Nuggets, who were coming off wins over Dallas and Utah.
"We didn't make the shots we needed to down the stretch," said Denver head coach George Karl. "They did and we didn't, that's why they won the game."
The Nuggets still lost even though Portland committed 25 turnovers. The Blazers made up for that with a 50-30 advantage on the glass.The Nuggets missed their first 12 three-point attempts and finished 4-for-20 from beyond the arc, while shooting 40.2 percent from the floor.
After this afternoon's game, the Nuggets will play three straight and seven of nine games in the Rocky Mountains. They have won three in a row at the Pepsi Center dating back to last season.
Denver took two of three meetings with the Lakers a year ago and has won five of the past seven matchups between the two teams. Despite a 95-90 win at Staples Center last April 3, the Nuggets have still lost 13 of 16 and 23 of their last 27 at the Lakers.
Bryant is averaging 25.5 points in 53 career games against Denver.
12/31 10:36:10 ET