Lakers vs. Nuggets: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles still looking for statement win

USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers' last three losses came to playoff-contending teams. They'll have a chance to turn the tide with a big win against the Denver Nuggets.

While the Los Angeles Lakers are cruising with three wins in a row and have won eight of their last 11, they do not have a statement victory over that span. Kobe Bryant's refusal to believe his Lakers are done and Dwight Howard's commitment of late have led to wins, but Mike D'Antoni's team still needs that one big win to show they're not kidding around.

Beating the Denver Nuggets in the Pepsi Center Monday would be a good start, as George Karl's team is 23-3 in Denver.

The Nuggets also sit in fifth place in the tough Western Conference, but they've lost four of their last six heading into the bout with Los Angeles. Denver has given up 115.7 points in its last three losses.

On the other side of things, the Lakers' last three losses have come to the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, three proud teams and all of them playoff-worthy as of now. Los Angeles started the second half of the season with a victory against the Celtics, however, and have used outbursts of 40 and 38 points from Bryant in the last two games to come away with wins against Portland and Dallas, two teams vying for the final playoff slot with the Lakers.

If the Lakers want a statement win, now would be the time. And if the Nuggets want to get back on track, protecting their home court against a hot team would remedy their situation.

Runnin' and gunnin'

Mike D'Antoni's days as an NBA head coach first began in Denver. He became theie coach in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, where he took over for a struggling team that finished 14-36 on the year. Nowadays, it's Karl's Nuggets using an up-tempo style D'Antoni once popularized; Denver is third in the NBA at 105.2 points per game.

On a back-to-back after playing Dallas on Sunday, the Lakers must the altitude, speed and depth of the Nuggets' rotations. Karl runs out a nine-man rotation on most nights, whereas Los Angeles is hampered by injury, not to mention D'Antoni's affinity for short benches.

That said, the bench unit has been producing for the Lakers of late. Reserve forward Antawn Jamison has hit double-digit scoring five games in a row, and in an earlier meeting with Denver, he scored a season-high 33 points.

The Lakers and Nuggets have already met three times this season with Denver taking two wins. In those three games, both teams are averaging 113.7 points per game.

Gallinari ready to go

The Denver Post reports that the Nuggets' leading scorer, Danilo Gallinari, should be able to play despite a thigh bruise limiting him in the last game.

Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: Altitude Sports / TWC

Odds: Denver is a six-point favorite.

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