Heading into 2013, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to be on their way to turning their season around.
Steve Nash and Pau Gasol returned from injuries in late December. L.A. went on a five-game winning streak at the end of 2012, culminating with a victory against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day. Since that game, though, the Lakers have struggled like they did for most of the season.
The Lakers winning streak was snapped by the Denver Nuggets, leading to three losses in four games. Now, L.A. looks to get some payback.
Los Angeles will host Denver on Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. ET. You can watch a live stream online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband.
Forty points from Kobe Bryant wasn’t enough to give the Lakers the victory. Corey Brewer led the Nuggets with 27 points off the bench.
It was the Lakers defense that, once again, failed them. The Nuggets scored 126 points that night, the highest point total that L.A. has allowed all year. Los Angeles’ defense is one of the worst in the league, as they’ve allowed 100.5 points per game.
Dwight Howard’s ailing back has not allowed him to be the defensive force that the Lakers had hoped they traded for. Besides his back, the center is also being hampered by a right shoulder injury, though he is expected to play.
After the Lakers most recent loss to the Clippers on Friday, Howard suggested that the team’s off-the-court relationship might be affecting the club on the hardwood.
"It really starts off the court,” said Howard. “I think you have to have that relationship and that chemistry off the court for it to really blossom on the court."
"We have to play like we like each other," the center continued. "Even if we don't want to be friends off the court, whatever that may be, when we step in between the lines or we step in the locker room or the gym, we have to respect each other and what we bring to the table.”
The Nuggets have had an up and down season. They currently sit at three games over .500 and in eighth place in the West.
Betting Line: Los Angeles-5, 213.5
Prediction: The Nuggets are young and athletic, and should be able to score on the Lakers. Denver is one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, but might not dominate the boards against a frontcourt of Gasol and Howard. It should be a high-scoring affair, but L.A. might won’t be able to get enough stops to get the victory.
Predicted Score: Denver 117, Los Angeles 109