NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, January 2nd (All times eastern)
Denver Nuggets (14-15) at Los Angeles Lakers (15-12), 9:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Denver Nuggets try to make it two straight wins for interim head coach Michael Cooper this evening when they face the team that he spent his entire playing career with, the Los Angeles Lakers, at the Staples Center.
Cooper, who replaced the fired Jeff Bzdelik on Tuesday, spent all 12 seasons of his NBA playing career with the Lakers, helping them win five championships in the 1980s. He was part of the team's front office for three years and served as an assistant coach from 1994-97, but in 1999 he became an assistant coach for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.
He was named head coach in November of that year, and would lead the Sparks to two league titles before leaving after last season to join the Nuggets' coaching staff.
On Friday, Cooper got his first NBA win, as Bryon Russell hit two foul shots in the final minute to lift Denver to a 97-92 win over Philadelphia at the Pepsi Center. Carmelo Anthony finished with 24 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who snapped a six-game losing streak.
Cooper, an eight-time member of the NBA's all-defensive team, stressed team defense to his Nuggets and it worked on Friday, as they forced 23 turnovers and became the first team in nine games to hold the 76ers below 100 points.
However, all the news was not good, as center Marcus Camby left the game with a strained back. Also, starters Kenyon Martin (back) and Greg Buckner (groin) missed the game. All three are questionable for tonight's affair.
Denver, which will host the LA Clippers on Monday, has lost four straight and six of its last seven on the road and is 4-9 away from home this season.
The Lakers, meanwhile, come in on a winning note after Kobe Bryant set a new season high with 48 points just three days after pouring in 42, as Los Angeles defeated the Toronto Raptors, 117-99, on Tuesday at the Staples Center.
Bryant originally set his season best during his Christmas Day, 42-point performance against former teammate Shaquille O'Neal but topped that by hitting 14-of-26 shots from the field and 16-of-18 foul shots. Caron Butler scored 18 points, while Lamar Odom added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who closed out the 2004 calendar year at 15-12.
Chucky Atkins contributed 14 points and seven assists in the victory, while Bryant finished 4-of-7 from three-point range.
Bryant is averaging 31.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists in his last 10 games and has scored in double-digits in all 27 of the Lakers' games this season.
The Lakers, who hit the road for two games after tonight's tilt, are 10-6 at home this season.
LA defeated the Nuggets earlier in the season and has won three straight and eight of the last nine meetings. Denver has also struggled at Staples against the Lakers, losing five straight and 15 of its last 16 there.
01/02 10:15:44 ET