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Lakers look to slow down Nuggets offense

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers will try to slow a team coming off a high-scoring performance when they host the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on Sunday evening.

The Nuggets defeated the visiting New Orleans Pelicans 146-114 on Friday night, the most points scored by an NBA team this season.

The Lakers are coming off a 122-113 home loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday, a day after the Houston Rockets scored a 142-116 victory over the Sun.

The Lakers have allowed at least 115 points in each of their past two games.

"As a team, the past two games, we haven't done well defensively," said Lakers rookie forward Kyle Kuzma, who scored a season-high 30 points against the Suns, including 28 in the second half. "It's an area that we need to address. Our identity is to be a defensive team, and the past two games are unacceptable to us."

Denver's scoring output against the Pelicans was its most in a regulation game in nearly 10 years, and lifted its season-scoring average to 108.5, tied for eighth in the league with the Philadelphia 76ers, who beat the Lakers 115-109 on Wednesday night at Staples Center.

"When everybody touches the ball and we get a lot of open looks, we're really hard to guard," said Denver point guard Jamal Murray, who scored 31 points against New Orleans. "It's great team basketball."

The key for the Nuggets seems to be finding consistency in their offense. The game before their scoring explosion, they were held to 82 points in a 17-point loss at the Portland Trail Blazers, the same number of points they put up in the second half against the Pelicans.

Having shooting guard Gary Harris back in the lineup should help with consistency. He missed two games with a shoulder injury before returning against the Pelicans and scoring 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting.

A key matchup Sunday will be in the middle between Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets and Brook Lopez of the Lakers.

Jokic showed his value in the two games at Staples Center last season. He had 29 points and 15 rebounds in a 127-121 victory on Jan. 17, then missed the next game two weeks later with a hip flexor injury and the Nuggets lost 120-116.

The Lakers had Timofey Mozgov at center during that stretch, but have upgraded to Lopez this season, and he's made a big difference.

Lopez is tied for second on the team in scoring at 15.1 points, and his 3-point shooting ability has helped spread the floor and open space in the lanes for the athletic guards and forwards on the Lakers.

Lopez is averaging just 4.9 rebounds, but has reached double figures in that category in two of the past three games.

Lakers coach Luke Walton has seen similar improvement across the board on his roster.

"The important thing for us is that we learn from our mistakes," he said. "We keep our head up, we keep working and grinding away to get where we all want to be."

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