What's on the line for Lakers-Nuggets?

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The Lakers have two results possible from this game. Awesome and ‘meh.’

For everything their detractors may claim, the Lakers are still the best team in the league, 1-6. Their only weak link in their starting five is a veteran stalwart who’s known for hitting some of the most clutch shots in the history of the NBA. They have unfathomable length on the defensive end, able to disrupt passing lanes even without much effort, let alone before their overload system starts killing. They feature premier players and are still the NBA’s elite.

Even their losses to the better teams in the league can be sloughed off. Their injuries provide excuses as does the fact that most have come in individual slumps. When provoked, as they were against the Mavs earlier this season, they can still strike like thunder from the gods.

The Nuggets on the other hand, have two possible results from this game. ‘Fine’ and ‘crap.’

If they win, well it builds their confidence in being able to defeat the Lakers in the playoffs, but doesn’t certify it. It is easily dismissed as “just a regular season game” (or three). It’s necessary to not allow a backslide from being in a position of strength as the season goes on. It’s important to win.

If they don’t win, then the other wins are invalidated, fair or not. “When the season got later, and the Lakers started trying, they overwhelmed the Nuggets.” That’s the cost of trying to overcome a champion.

The problem for Denver is that even with their earlier wins, they rely on hot shooting. If the defensive effort comes from LA that can show up, they’re nearly impossible to beat. Kobe Bryant can’t be shut down without injury, and while the Denver bigs are tough, physical, and efficient, the Laker bigs are just more talented. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a 15-point Laker win today, as a statement.

Then again, I said Boston would annihilate the Nets yesterday. Should be a good one regardless.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.

Devin Booker forces OT with deep turnaround buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but Bucks beat Suns (video)

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I’m not sure who benefited from Devin Booker‘s buzzer-beating, overtime-forcing 3-pointer. The Suns still lost to the Bucks, 113-107. The extra five minutes featured more of the same relatively bad basketball we’d seen between Phoenix (bad) and Milwaukee (shorthanded) through 48 minutes.

But darn if this shot wasn’t really cool and clutch.