Mike D’Antoni on Lakers-Nuggets game: “We have to win.”

Game: Lakers (15-17) vs. Denver Nuggets (19-16)

Time: 6:30 p.m.

TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet/Time Warner Cable Deportes

The Lakers are encountering a week that coach Mike D’Antoni believes, for better or worse, reveal the team’s identity.

So D’Antoni’s going beyond coach-speak when he outlined the importance of the Lakers’ game tonight against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.

“We have to have a win,” D’Antoni said. “However we get it, we have to tough it out.”

The same applies to when the Lakers meet other Western Conference playoff teams this week, including Houston (Tuesday), San Antonio (Wednesday) and Okahoma City (Friday).

That could prove to be a tough task considering the Lakers lost Friday against the Clippers, a team that proved too overwhelming with their youth and athleticism. The Nuggets presented similar problems Dec. 26 when they hosted the Lakers in Denver.

“I’m just happy we’re not in Denver with that altitude,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “It’ll make running with them a little bit easier.”

Good luck.

As they rank last in transition defense, the Lakers face a team that ranks eighth in total offense (101.69 points per game), fifth in field-goal percentage (46.6 percent) and fifth in assists (23.09). The last time these teams met, the Nuggets crushed the Lakers in points (128) and offensive rebounds (19-13). Denver also posted 25 second-chacne points.

“Our biggest thing is transition so we need to run back,” D’Antoni said. “Second chance points, we have to be more aggressive attacking the boards. If we cure those two things, we’re okay.”

Part of those areas could hinge on the Lakers’ frontline.

Dwight Howard will play despite nursing a right shoulder strain.

“He’s fine,” D’Antoni said. “He’s good. That’s Superman in there.”

He wasn’t Superman in Denver.

Howard posted only 12 points and an ejection for performing a flagrant foul type 2 against Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. He carved up the Lakers with 21 points and 15 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol is a game removed from a two-game performance that prompted him to express frustrations about his reduced post role in D’Antoni’s offense.

“Pau Gasol is a hell of a basketball player,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I know he’s very frustrated right now and I hope he’s still frustrated until after the season.”

But D’Antoni expressed optimism Gasol will bounce back.

“We’ll get him involved as much as we can,” D’Antoni said. “he’s a very talented player. He will be okay. I trust him totally. The guy’s too smart and too taleneted to go through long stretches [of bad games]. Everybody goes through them.”

The Lakers are going through them now. Hence, why D’Antoni sees tonight’s game as a huge opportunity to change fortune.

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  • dice8up

    I have been laid back on this, but, I really feel that trading Pau is the direction we should take.. Pau just does not fit in DAntoni’s system… we need an agile 4, that can stretch the floor, and defend… we can actually have JHill be that 4.. he has been playing really good lately.

    • Jon K

      We need a different coach.

  • Jon K

    FIRE/DEMOTE MIKE D’ANTONI!!!!!

    The fact that D’Antoni can’t figure out HOW to use Pau Gasol is proof positive that D’Antoni doesn’t know what he’s doing and is inflexible about it.

    • dice8up

      I am not ready yet to hop on that bandwagon, jon… it’s just too big of a change to make at this point of the season.. we have had coaching change already.. I don’t think it will do good to the psyche of the players and the team as a whole if made at this juncture…

      • Jon K

        I am ready to drive that bandwagon onto Jim Buss’ manicured bedroom, throw his butler off the balcony and then give “He’s No Dr. Buss” Buss an ultimatum.

  • dice8up

    And just like that, we are down by 8 points after first Q… sigh…

  • dice8up

    Hi Jon, good to see you here… I missed your bb mind since you abandoned us at LAT… lol.. I also left that board.. it was just not the same anymore…

    • Jon K

      Agreed. I’m going to hang out here for a while.

      What do we play for? RINGS!!!

      Lakers Today… Lakers Tomorrow… Lakers Forever.

      GO LAKERS!!!!

  • Jon K

    FIRE MIKE D’ANTONI!!!!

    REHIRE BERNIE BICKERSTAFF!!!!

  • Jon K

    I’m sorry, but Laker Nation has spoken.

    Mike D’Antoni has to go… and NOW!

    What do we play for? RINGS!!!!

    Lakers Today… Lakers Tomorrow… Lakers Forever.

    GO LAKERS!!!!

  • Jon K

    So, since D’Antoni said, “We have to win!” and we lost, can we please fire him now?

    He didn’t live up to his own ultimatum.

    What do we play for? RINGS!!!

    Lakers Today… Lakers Tomorrow… Lakers Forever.

    GO LAKERS!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/MedinaLakersNBA Mark Medina

    Jon K – I really appreciate that you’re going to give this place a try. Definitely a lot more user friendly in leaving comments

    • Jon K

      Yes. FAR more user friendly in terms of leaving comments.

  • Jon K

    FIRE/DEMOTE MIKE D’ANTONI!!!!!