Without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers have turned to Kwame Brown with very limited success. Bynum was averaging 13.1 points and team-highs with 10.2 rebounds and two blocks per game in comparison to the five points and five rebounds L.A. has been seeing from Brown. And without Bynum, the Lakers are down to only three players who are scoring in double-figures. Once again, leaving Kobe Bryant to shoulder even more of the load.
But the Nuggets are currently experiencing just the opposite. Linas Kleiza has been coming on strong, and with his latest 41-point outburst, the Lakers should be put on notice of him and J.R. Smith. Lately, Smith has been showing up with more regularity and it has been a blessing in disguise. In his last four games, Smith is averaging 14.2 points per game stemming from a recent rash of 8-22 from downtown and has been instrumental in sparking key comeback efforts. In his last five games, (with forwards Nene and Kenyon Martin out with varying medical issues), Linas Kleiza is averaging 15.6 points and six rebounds in almost 30 minutes per game. This now gives the Nuggets four players scoring in double figures, in addition to the league’s most potent scoring combination of Allen Iverson (27.1 ppg) and Carmelo Anthony (25.8 ppg).
Now, on paper, this game looks to be a great contest, but all the statistical categories that the Lakers and Nuggets were so similar in were in direct relation to a Laker team that included Andrew Bynum. Without Bynum, I think the Lakers are going to slide back into the middle of the Pacific Division and who better to send them into a two-game slide than the Denver Nuggets? Marcus Camby is having his best year ever, Carmelo is rebounding (finally), and Allen Iverson is still able to take over any game at anytime. All in all, Denver isn’t looking like a team in that much disarray seeing how they have all but lost their presumed starting point guard (Chucky Atkins) to a hernia that will take the majority of the rest of the season to recover from, and two power forwards indefinitely (Nene and Kenyon Martin) to a testicular tumor and a staph infection on the buttocks.
So, barring any kind of massive offensive showing by Kobe Bryant I think the Nuggets should be able to extend their current two-game winning streak to three games against the Lakers. I haven’t made a prediction in awhile, but I’m pretty confident on this one.