Things to watch in Lakers-Nuggets matchup
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers visit the Denver Nuggets on New Year's Day at Pepsi Center on a back-to-back.
1. How will the Lakers' conditioning hold up? High altitude and a back-to-back game aren't the only factors that may hinder the Lakers' speed. As impressive as Andrew Bynum was in his season debut, he admitted he played incredibly winded. The Lakers aren't holding his hand, with Derek Fisher saying somewhat seriously that they'll open the game throwing the ball into him on 20 consecutive possessions just to see if he breaks down. Big picture, it's a good strategy. Short term, Bynum's conditioning may take a few games. Add Pau Gasol's fatigue toward the end of the Lakers' 92-89 victory Saturday over the Denver Nuggets and you have a team that could face defensive problems.
2. Will the Lakers cut down on turnovers? The Lakers' 19 turnovers against Denver turned into 23 points. Considering how crucial late-game plays proved to be, the Lakers easily could've lost to the Nuggets. There's no use in the Lakers' playing with fire again. After all, their 15 turnovers-per-game average played a large part in their two losses.
3. The Lakers' three-point shooting must improve. The Lakers went a horrid two of 24 from three-point range against Denver, yet won because of defense and timely plays. Again, the Lakers can't afford to have such a luxury every time. Consider the disparity behind the perimeter in their wins (30.4%) and losses (15.6%).
4. Matt Barnes will start again at small forward. At least for now, Lakers Coach Mike Brown no longer plans to start Devin Ebanks at small forward. But he made it clear after the win over Denver that he's hardly close to tabbing a definitive starter. It remains unclear how much Ebanks will actually play, if at all. As for Barnes, it's critical he maintains his aggressiveness without making silly fouls. Throwing in a few points and rebounds off hustle plays will help too.
5. Will the real Metta World Peace please stand up? The first five games of the regular season have featured World Peace going feast or famine. In the Lakers' two preseason games and season opener, World Peace went six of 27 from the field. In the next three games, he went 16 of 30. And against Denver, World Peace shot a horrible zero of eight. This has nothing to do with whether World Peace scores. It instead points to hisperformances suffering when he shoots from the perimeter instead of operating on the post. For better or worse, the Lakers are well accustomed to World Peace's unpredictable play. But this is something he needs to control consistently.
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