Nuggets-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

Strong offensive performances helped both the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers end their lengthy losing streaks.

Now only one of the struggling Western Conference teams can continue trending in the right direction Sunday night when the Nuggets visit Staples Center seeking their fifth straight win over the Lakers.

Denver (15-17) had its best shooting night in a month Friday to snap an eight-game skid, hitting 53.8 percent from the field in a 111-108 home win over Memphis. The Nuggets had shot 41.5 percent and averaged 93.4 points in their previous 14 - a 3-11 stretch.

"It's wonderful, a wonderful feeling," forward Kenneth Faried told the team's official website. "We got the monkey off our back, and we can't put it back on. I think we stopped playing so tight, nervous and hesitant. We just came out and hooped."

After shooting a combined 36.4 percent in their last two games, the Lakers (14-19) broke out in similar fashion Friday against Utah to end their losing streak at six. They shot 51.9 percent in a 110-99 home win over the Jazz.

Banged-up Los Angeles did it with its 18th starting five and sixth different starting point guard as coach Mike D'Antoni gave Kendall Marshall his first nod since he was signed from the D-League on Dec. 20. Marshall didn't disappoint with 20 points and 15 assists, both career highs after spending his rookie campaign with Phoenix last season.

"Everything happens for a reason, so I'm thankful for the position I'm in right now and I want to make the most of it with this team," Marshall said.

Pau Gasol had a similarly impressive double-double with 23 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.

Marshall got the start after the Lakers again lost Jordan Farmar for at least four weeks with a torn left hamstring. Farmar had started the last four games after missing 10 with another tear in the same hamstring.

The injury report also includes Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow) and Xavier Henry (knee). They'll all be out against Denver, while forward Wesley Johnson is questionable with an illness.

With players expected to return throughout the month and into early February, D'Antoni is hoping Marshall, Gasol and the rest of the healthy cast can keep the Lakers afloat.

"It seems like when Kobe comes back, we're going to have a lot of guys coming back. ..." D'Antoni said. "Hopefully we can stay within striking distance to at least give ourselves a chance going down the stretch and try to salvage the season."

The Nuggets' recent personnel issues have had more to do with internal strife than injuries. Backup point guard Andre Miller is on personal leave after a verbal confrontation with coach Brian Shaw and won't return to the team until Monday.

Snapping the losing streak seems to have calmed some of the tension.

"It was a feeling we needed to get, especially in light of everything that's been going on with us," Shaw said. "Now we have something we can build on. As easy as it was for us to string together eight losses in a row, if we play the right way, we come with that kind of energy and continue to improve, we can string together eight wins in a row."

Starting point guard Ty Lawson had 18 points and 12 assists in the win over Memphis. He's averaged 19.8 points and 9.8 assists during the team's win streak against the Lakers.

Gasol led all scorers with 25 points in the Lakers' 111-99 loss in Denver on Nov. 13.

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