A Look Ahead: Upcoming Challenges Against Denver and Portland


The NBA season is already halfway over as All-Star Weekend is almost upon us, but the Lakers still have work to do before they can take the weekend off. Here’s a brief look at the upcoming games this week.

Tonight, the Lakers will square off against the Denver Nuggets, who have lost their last five games and are facing an under-performing Oklahoma City Thunder squad on Monday before heading to Los Angeles. Currently at 19-32, the Nuggets are in a similar position as the Lakers: on the outside looking in on the playoffs, and it does not appear their position will improve much over the course of the season judging by how things are currently shaping up for the team.

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Earlier last week, Denver head coach Brian Shaw showed some detachment and frustration with his team during an interview. After being questioned about why the team had performed poorly, he simply told reporters to go ask them. This dysfunction may be something that the Lakers can take advantage of come Tuesday.

The Nuggets have been seen simply giving up on basketball games at times and have been showing lack of unity, whereas the Lakers for the most part have stood together through this tumultuous season. If the Lakers are able to pour it on early and discourage the opposition, there could be a good chance that the game will be an uphill battle for the Nuggets.

As always, the point guard position will probably provide some trouble for the Lakers guards because Ty Lawson will be at the helm for Denver, and he is more than a capable slasher with his wicked speed and power. Along with keeping up with Lawson, the Lakers also need to focus on limiting turnovers, rebounding on the offensive and defensive end, and defending the three point line. The Nuggets are 21st (out of 30 teams) in both offense and defense season, so these are not impossible feats for the Lakers to accomplish.

Tomorrow, the Lakers go toe-to-toe once again in Portland with the Trail Blazers, who proved far and beyond that they are a superior team to the Lakers in their previous meetings this season. Damian Lillard should be public enemy number one on the Lakers scouting report; he had a game high 39 points in their first meeting, and 34 points the next, completely dismantling the Lakers.

While it may seem to be impossible to shut Lillard down, the Lakers will undoubtedly focus on ball denial and slowing him down at least. Focusing on guarding the rest of the team and allowing Lillard to “get his” will probably be a more effective game plan for the Lakers rather than expending all their energy to stop a clearly dominant force.

Other players such as Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum can fill it up for the Blazers as well, especially from behind the arc, so it will be important for the Lakers to hone in on frustrating those players offensively. Keeping LaMarcus Aldridge from becoming too involved should also be a big point of emphasis for the Lakers defense; keep him off the boards, and make him operate outside of the paint as much as possible when he is on offense.

On the upside, both games will provide some quality experience for the young rookie Jordan Clarkson, who has proven he definitely play and could possibly have some value moving forward with the franchise in future seasons. Clarkson will get to go up against the well seasoned Ty Lawson and then the devastating Damian Lillard the following day, giving the kid a full dose of what it is like to deal with starting NBA point guards on a nightly basis.

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