Monday's game could be LeBron James' third appearance for the LA Lakers since returning from a high ankle sprain that kept him off the court for 20 games. Meanwhile, Anthony Davis has played six games since missing the previous 30 matches with a calf injury.
The status of the two LA Lakers superstars remains day-to-day, as the team is likely to take a cautious approach with both players in their bid to win back-to-back NBA titles. However, with the team in danger of falling out of the West's Top 6, it could be tough to rest them both against a hot Denver Nuggets team.
As things stand, with the LA Lakers sixth and Denver Nuggets third in the West, the two teams will meet in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs in a replay of the 2020 Western Finals.
Monday's game will be the final meeting between the two teams in the 2020-21 season; the series is currently tied at one win apiece.
Denver Nuggets vs LA Lakers prediction
The LA Lakers are currently 36-28 and have fallen in three consecutive games recently. Even with Davis back, they fell in three of the four games before LeBron James' return. With the two superstars, the LA Lakers lost to the Sacramento Kings by four points before losing at home to the Toronto Raptors on May 2nd.
The Lakers will face the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back series, which is not ideal for James and Davis, who are trying to ease back into rhythm.
The Denver Nuggets (43-21) suffered a major setback with Jamal Murray's ACL injury, but the team have regrouped and have won nine of their last 10 games. They are just three games behind the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns (46-18) in the fight for the top seed of the regular season.
At full strength, both the Denver Nuggets and the LA Lakers are strong on both ends of the floor.
The LA Lakers dropped to 24th in the NBA in Offensive Rating without James and Davis, but the second unit managed to maintain the team's place at the top of the Defensive Rating standings.
The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, are third in Offensive Rating in the entire NBA with 117.5 points scored per 100 possessions. Their defense is also the 13th-best in the league, which gives them the fifth-best Net Rating in the NBA. The LA Lakers are eighth in that department.
Denver Nuggets vs LA Lakers combined starting 5
Point Guard - LeBron James | Shooting Guard - Michael Porter | Small Forward - Anthony Davis | Power Forward - Andre Drummond | Center - Nikola Jokic
In essence, LeBron James has always been a point guard, and that's the role we're giving him in our combined lineup. The 36-year-old missed plenty of games for the LA Lakers due to injury, but he returned with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists against the Sacramento Kings. He then put up 19 points in the loss against the Toronto Raptors at home.
In the 43 games he's played this year, James is averaging 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game while shooting 51% from the field, 36% from three, and 70% from the free-throw line.
LA Lakers' Dennis Schroder would've been alongside James in the backcourt, but he has entered the NBA's health and safety protocols again and is not available for Frank Vogel. Denver Nuggets' Michael Porter Jr. will take the shooting guard spot in Schroder's absence as the sophomore is having a stunning year for Mike Malone's team.
Porter is averaging 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this year. He has played a bigger role for the Denver Nuggets in Jamal Murray's absence and continues to progress as a player.
Since Murray suffered his knee injury, Porter has averaged 25.6 points with 57/51/83 shooting splits (10 games).
Our tall lineup also has the LA Lakers' Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond, who could be a dominant pair in the NBA Playoffs.
Davis is trying to get back into rhythm after missing many games for the LA Lakers. The eight-time All-Star is averaging 21.6 points (lowest since his sophomore year) and eight rebounds per game (lowest since his rookie year) in the 2020-21 NBA season.
Andre Drummond, on the other hand, is still looking for consistency since signing with the LA Lakers on March 28th. In 13 games with the LA Lakers, he is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game, with an average of 25 minutes per appearance.
Our lineup also includes the frontrunner for the 2020-21 NBA MVP award, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. The Serbian leads the team on the court every night and has had a stunning 2020-21 campaign.
The Denver Nuggets star is averaging 26 points, 11 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game. He is leading the league in Offensive Win Shares while also ranking third in Defensive Win Shares.
Jokic is one of two players in the Top 5 in both Offensive Win Shares and Defensive Win Shares in the current season, along with Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo.