The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon badly needing a win to stay in the playoff picture, but unfortunately had to do so without LeBron James due to his ankle injury.
While the Lakers fought until the end, they came up short in a 129-118 loss to the Nuggets as has been a theme of this season.
To start, the Laker defense was able to force the Nuggets into several early turnovers, fueling their transition offense and allowing them to take a 8-5 lead. Los Angeles relentlessly attacked the painted area, with Anthony Davis finding no issues getting all the way to the cup en route to six points.
Davis dominated his matchup with Nikola Jokic, stripping him of the ball in the post and later scoring converting an and-one opportunity to keep the Lakers up five. L.A.’s bench was able to hit shots but Denver managed to close the gap and make it 28-26 after the first.
Jokic’s first quarter was one he would like to forget as he had five turnovers and picked up a pair of fouls, sending him to the bench.
His teammates picked up for him at the start of the second quarter though as the Nuggets were able to take their first lead of the afternoon after DeMarcus Cousins found Aaron Gordon for a three, prompting a timeout from head coach Frank Vogel. Despite some discomfort with his foot, Davis was able to return and immediately blocked a shot that led to a Talen Horton-Tucker and-one putting L.A. back up 43-37.
Davis wowed the Crypto.com Arena with a slick behind-the-back move, but Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland picked up the Nuggets offense to make it a two-point contest. Russell Westbrook brought the crowd to its feet with a poster over Cousins, but a bad foul from Malik Monk at the end of the half made it 62-61 in favor of Denver.
Los Angeles was able to find an offensive groove to begin the third, moving the ball around for good looks that helped them retake a 74-69 advantage. However, Denver fought back by getting stops and a Jokic floater in the lane knotted things 78-78.
Davis looked hobbled running up and down the floor, but gutted it out on both ends to keep the Lakers slightly ahead. Jokic began to take over the game with his scoring and passing ability, leaving Los Angeles trailing 95-94 after three.
The Laker bench unit did well to keep them hanging around as Carmelo Anthony knocked down his first triple while Horton-Tucker hit an acrobatic layup. Aaron Gordon continued his hot shooting afternoon with another 3-pointer of his own, and came up with a block to put the Nuggets ahead.
Things began to unravel as Denver started to shred Los Angeles on both ends, putting the latter down by double digits.
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