Hereâ€™s the level of frustration and paranoia this yearâ€™s Lakers have brought me to: They should win this game, all signs point to a win, so Iâ€™m sure they are going to get blown out. Every time the Lakers should break through the next barrier â€” like winning three in a row for the first time this season (which they can do tonight) â€” they take a huge step backwards.
The Lakers have some advantages tonight. For one, they catch the Nuggets in second game of a back-to-back, and Denver is 2-5 so far this season in those second games. This is also their forth game in five days, so there should be tired legs for the Lakers to exploit if they can get out and run.
Another advantage is Kobe. The last game between these two was Jan. 2, in the middle of Kobeâ€™s 40-points-a-game streak. He scored 42, shooting 51.7% eFG%, and afterward Michael Cooper surprisingly said he thought the Nuggets did a good job of containing him. The Nuggets still have trouble stopping the opponents two guard (17.1 oPER for the season), so this could be another big night from Kobe.
Also, while the Lakers have won both games against Denver this season they have yet to shoot the ball particularly well in those games. The Lakers have a below-average eFG% of 44.6% against Denver (it is 48.9% for the season).
What has happened is Denver has been worse â€” an eFG% of 36.7% against the Lakers (well below their season average of 46.6%).
The one guy who gave the Lakers problems last game was Carmello Anthony, who scored 24. If allowed to post up, he will push Caron Butler around (and Butlerâ€™s oPER is already a high 20.1 this season), so Mihm or Odom need to help out. The better move (and one taken by other teams, according to an interview Joel Meyers did with the Denver Postâ€™s Nugget beat writer this morning) is to sag off Carmello and dare him to shoot from the outside. Carmelloâ€™s eFG% on jump shots is just 34.5% â€” make him shoot it from the outside.
One other change from the Jan. 2 game is that Marcus Camby is back for the Nuggets. The combination of Camby/Anthony/Kenyon Martin is a tough match up for the Lakers, particularly if Mihm gets in foul trouble.
That said, the Nuggets have lost five in a row, making me feel bad for Michael Cooper but seeing the advantage for the Lakers. This is a team that is down emotionally and tired physically. The Lakers should win this game.
Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m nervous.