Lakers: Week 18 predictions

Nuggets' Andre Iguodala knocks the ball away from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the first half of a game last month.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers won all three games in Week 17, climbing to within one game of .500 (28-29).

With only 25 games left in the regular season, the Lakers still have to make up ground on the 31-27 Houston Rockets to climb into the top eight in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors might be within range of the Lakers, but they’ll need to continue to win the way they did last week.

The Lakers are still four losses below the cumulative predictions for weeks 1-17.


Monday at Denver Nuggets

The Lakers and Nuggets have already met three times this season. Denver has won two, including one at Staples Center.

It was the Jan. 6 meeting in which Lakers reserve big man Jordan Hill went down with a hip injury, Pau Gasol went out with a concussion and Dwight Howard re-aggravated his shoulder injury. It was the third consecutive loss for the Lakers -- a streak that would extend to six.

The Lakers come into Denver having won 10 of their last 14 games. The difficult part will be getting a win on the Nuggets’ home floor where they’re 23-3 this season.

Denver, which averages 105.2 points a game, has climbed to fifth place at 35-22.

It’s going to be a true challenge for the Lakers to get their fourth consecutive win with a victory at Denver, playing the Nuggets on the second night of back-to-back games.

Prediction: Nuggets

Thursday vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves on Feb. 1 in Minnesota, 111-100. Thursday will be the second of three meetings this season.

With Kevin Love sitting for most of the season, the Wolves have had a difficult time (20-33). While playoffs might be out of the picture, they’re still a dangerous squad.

Howard sat out in Minnesota as the Lakers rode Pau Gasol for 22 points and 12 rebounds. Kobe Bryant came within two assists of a triple-double: 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Now Gasol is out with a foot injury, but Howard has played some of his best basketball since the All-Star break.

Prediction: Lakers

Sunday vs. Atlanta Hawks

The Lakers have yet to face the Hawks (31-23) this season. Atlanta is currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Forward Josh Smith is the team’s leading scorer at 17.2 points a game followed closely by Al Horford’s 16.7.

The Hawks don’t score a ton of points (97.4 points a game), but they’re aggressive on defense, giving up 96.6 a game. They’re also a relatively solid road team at 13-13.

The Lakers will have some trouble with the Atlanta big men, point guard Jeff Teague and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

Prediction: Lakers


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