The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets, two typically up-tempo teams, have been slowed significantly this season because of injuries.
Both squads, however, have reason for optimism.
Wilson Chandler is expected to make his season debut Wednesday night when the Nuggets go for their longest winning streak against the Lakers in over 18 years.
Los Angeles (4-5) is still without its star backcourt of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Bryant remains sidelined after surgery in April to repair a torn Achilles, while Nash will be out at least two more weeks because of nerve problems in his back.
Denver (2-4) has been in a similar situation due to injuries to forward Danilo Gallinari (knee) and center JaVale McGee (leg), who are out indefinitely.
Having Chandler back could provide the Nuggets with the lift they need.
The oft-injured forward has been hampered by a hamstring injury after averaging 13.0 points and 5.1 rebounds in 43 games last season.
"He brings a lot to the table," first-year coach Brian Shaw told the team's official website. "I kind of got a little gleam in my eye in anticipation of him coming back. Just overall, it gives a big shot in our arm having him out there.
"I wouldn't immediately throw (Chandler) into the starting lineup. Just get him in, get him a good 5-minute run, see how that goes and build from there."
Chandler's return is rather timely after he went 10 of 18, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range, and scored 23 points in a 119-108 home win over the Lakers on Feb. 25.
A similar effort could help Denver win back-to-back games for the first time this season, and give them their first four-game win streak over the Lakers since April 8, 1994-Feb. 3, 1995.
The Nuggets are coming off their best game of the season Monday in a 100-81 victory at winless Utah, which they outscored 30-13 in the fourth quarter.
Denver was averaging 20.2 points in the final period over its first five games, and Shaw was pleased with the improvement.
"Defensively, we contested their shots," Shaw said. "We scored on the offensive end in the fourth quarter probably for the first time all year, and we had them struggling to score points."
Ty Lawson had 17 points and 10 assists against the Jazz, giving him team-leading averages of 21.7 and 7.3. Like Chandler, the guard also came up big in the last meeting with the Lakers, scoring 22 and dishing out eight assists.
Los Angeles also comes in on a high note after shooting a season-best 55.7 percent and going 11 of 20 from beyond the arc in a 116-95 victory over New Orleans on Tuesday.
Jordan Hill picked up the slack with Bryant out, sinking 7 of 12 from the field to finish with a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds in his first start of the season.
"We've just got to do this every night, because we're not good enough to take any plays off," Hill said. "We've got to have that energy every time we step on the floor. That's what I try to bring whenever I'm there. I don't care if I'm starting."
The forward, averaging only 7.9 points and 7.1 rebounds so far this season, has likely earned himself another start.
Nick Young is averaging 14.0 points over the Lakers' last five games. The reserve guard finished with 17 and went 7 of 11 from the field Tuesday.
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