Jan 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kendall Marshall (12) celebrates after a 3-point basket in the final minute against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Jazz 110-99. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pau Plays Tonight? Lakers vs Nuggets Game Preview

Amidst a frenzy Saturday night, nothing looks official from the Gasol for Bynum trade rumor.  As such, the Lakers will march on with a game tonight.

JaVale McGee is out with a leg injury.  Danilo Gallinari is out with a knee injury.  These are two Nuggets players that give the Lakers fits on the offensive end.  But who else do the Lakers have to watch out for?  Here are Denver’s big three:

Jan 3, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) watches as power forward Zach Randolph (50) fouls Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 111-108. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets come off with a balanced attack spearheaded by Ty Lawson.  He leads the team with 17.7 points per game, 8.1 assists per game, and 1.4 steals per game. He has an assist to turnover ratio greater than 2:1, and has proven to be a streaky shooter from the perimeter.  He’s shooting 43% from the field, but his speed and quickness has put the Lakers on their heels defensively for years.  Containment is key when defending Ty Lawson, but forcing him to shoot off the dribble from distance would prove helpful into Laker favor.

Kenneth Faried is a monster on the backboards.  When Jordan Hill doesn’t have the best game going, the Lakers tend to get outrebounded and give up huge scoring runs.  Faried is difficult to contain on the backboard, but he is foul prone.  His rebound rate is 7.6 rebounds per game in just 23.2 minutes.  On the offensive glass, he’ll grab 3 in those limited minutes, and this allows Denver to control tempo; not just pushing the ball upcourt, but outhustling opponents for easy scores.  Outside of Mozgov, he’s the only player shooting over 50% from the field, at a 54% clip.

Nate Robinson is a key player to watch coming off of the bench.  The football cornerback turned NBA point guard is known for scoring in spurts.  His quickness and unpredictability is difficult to contain.  Like Lawson, he’s also streaky from the perimeter, but once he hits a couple of jumpshots, he’s out for a big night.

The Denver Nuggets are coming off of a three-point win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.  With a 15-17 record, the Nuggets are carrying momentum heading into Staples Center tonight.  They have more diversified athletic talent on the floor, but like Pau’s tweet says, the team is out to fight tonight.  Despite having six players with injuries, the Lakers are only three games behind the Nuggets.

Kendall Marshall has his hands full defensively, but look for him to execute screen-roll play to perfection, making Lawson work a bit on defense.  He’s able to hit his teammates with crisp passes leading directly to finishes. Statistically speaking, J.J. Hickson is among the worst in the league at giving up points in the paint.  Marshall can get Gasol and Hill in position to score in the paint and hopefully get Denver’s front-line in foul trouble.  Lawson is more familiar with Marshall’s game, so don’t expect those open 30′ 3-pointers to be available.

Nick Young broke his 20-point scoring streak, but made better decisions on the floor in regards to shot selection.  This kept the Laker team moving offensively and maintained offensive flow until the 4th quarter, when his isolation play was needed most.  While he missed all of his 3-point shots, going 0-5 last game, he finished 6 of 14 from the field.  That output is much more effective than his 6 of 21 and 8 for 21 shot forrays.

Pau Gasol had a tremendous performance during the last game.  It’s possible the trade rumors will affect him in tonight’s game, but he will come out aggressive and with pride.

Maybe the Lakers get one more win with Pau Gasol.  Hopefully, it’s not his last.

Tags: Faried Gasol Kendall Kenneth Lakers Lawson Marshall Pau Trade Ty

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