Denver (24-15) at Los Angeles (26-12)

Fair Currently: Los Angeles, CA
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 10:30 pm EST Mon Jan 21, 2008
  • TV: TNT, FSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

It seems likely the Los Angeles Lakers are really going to miss Andrew Bynum. Their fans have made it clear they already do.

The man replacing him, meanwhile, might be wishing he didn’t have to play in front of them again.

Kwame Brown, booed loudly in his first home game starting in Bynum’s place, hopes an improved performance leads to better treatment from the Staples Center crowd and a victory for the Lakers on Monday as they meet the Denver Nuggets.

The 20-year-old Bynum was having a breakout season - a big reason why Los Angeles (26-12) is near the top of the Western Conference standings - before injuring his knee last Sunday. He is averaging 13.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks while leading the NBA in field-goal percentage (63.6), but is expected to miss about eight weeks due to a dislocated kneecap and a bone bruise.

The Lakers have struggled the past two games without him. They needed overtime last Monday to beat Seattle, which has lost 10 straight and owns the league’s third-worst record. Three days later, Los Angeles had a seven-game win streak snapped and never led in a 106-98 home loss to Phoenix as Brown had a rough night.

The former No. 1 overall draft pick had eight points and six rebounds, but his third-quarter meltdown got Lakers fans riled up. Brown blew a dunk and committed four of his seven turnovers in that period before exiting the game for good with 3:50 left after committing his fifth foul.

“I thought it was terrible,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said of the fans’ behavior. “If they want to do that, they can stay home. He’s going to be our guy here for two months. He’s going to do fine, he’s going to play well the next game.

“Kwame’s sensitive. You boo him, it’s going to affect him. I told him I’ve got his back.”

Brown would not speak to reporters after the game, but his teammates were supportive of the 6-foot-11 center who is averaging just 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.

“If you’re here as a Laker fan, you should support your team through the good, the bad, the ugly,” Jordan Farmar said. “That’s what home court is all about - people get behind you, give you some energy, some spark.”

Despite Brown’s poor game, the boos had to come as a surprise to the Lakers considering how well they have played - they’ve won 17 of 21 and have the fourth-best record in the West.

Monday’s matchup could help Brown get back in the right frame of mind because he might not be asked to do much offensively against Marcus Camby, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year who leads the league with 3.9 blocks per game. Plus, the Nuggets center is usually not a big threat offensively, scoring more than 10 points just 13 times all season.

Camby did have a double-double in his most recent game, but Denver (24-15) again relied on Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony as that duo scored 61 points in a 111-108 win over Minnesota on Saturday.

Iverson’s fade-away jumper and two free throws in the final 30 seconds gave him 35 points and helped secure the victory for Denver, which improved to 6-2 this season when he scores at least 35.

However, it was another poor defensive showing by the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets, who gave up 60 second-half points to a Minnesota team averaging a Western Conference-worst 93.3. Denver has allowed an average of 111.3 points in its last six games.

“It was ugly, but we still got the win,” Iverson said. “That’s the only thing that mattered. We can work on all the negative things we did in the game. We can get into practice and work on those things and watch film, but I think we’d be feeling a lot worse if we didn’t get the win.”

The Lakers are the league’s third highest-scoring team at 107.6 points per game.

Iverson scored a season-high 51 points in the last meeting Dec. 5, but the Nuggets lost for the second time in as many games against the Lakers this season, 111-107.

Denver has lost three straight away from home and is the only division leader with a sub-.500 road record (7-10).

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Monday, Jan 21