Since clinching the top seed in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost their last three games. The Lakers will try to end their skid Monday when they clash with the Denver Nuggets near Orlando.
LeBron James had 31 points, eight rebounds and seven assists but the Lakers couldn’t match the play of T.J. Warren, who scored a game-high 39 points, and the Indiana Pacers in a 116-111 setback Saturday. Quinn Cook added 21 points for the Lakers, who are 2-4 since the NBA restart.
Lakers All-Star forward Anthony Davis struggled, finishing with eight points on 3-of-14 shooting and missing his four 3-point attempts. Davis also committed four turnovers.
“I thought he just didn’t shoot the ball that well,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told the media after the game. “They doubled him in the post; he found guys. We’re getting better with our post spacing and the shot quality we’re getting when we get doubled, so I think that’s a positive. I thought he played really good defense for most of the night. I thought he played well, just didn’t shoot well.”
The Lakers (51-18) haven’t played well since beating the Utah Jazz on Aug. 3 to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West. With their offense bogging down, they suffered double-digit losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets before losing to the Pacers. James sat out the Rockets’ contest with a sore groin.
Vogel believes the tough stretch will pay off in the long run.
“It’s going to strengthen us,” he said. “There have been some struggles. (It’s) been a little bit frustrating but we’re playing against great defenses. That’s the best way to prepare and tighten up all your execution pieces. (I’m) really optimistic about how we looked offensively tonight and about the game overall.”
The Nuggets (46-24) captured a 134-132 double overtime victory over the Jazz on Saturday. Nikola Jokic had 30 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals for Denver, which is 3-2 since the restart.
The Nuggets, the No. 3 seed in the West, could have avoided the extra sessions if they hadn’t blown a six-point lead with 19 seconds left in regulation. But the play of Jokic and guard Jamal Murray, who made his debut in the bubble, allowed Denver to escape.
Murray scored 23 points, collected a career-high 12 rebounds and recorded eight assists after being sidelined with a hamstring injury for four games. He also buried a crucial 3-pointer late in the second overtime that helped the Nuggets prevail. Jokic’s driving layup before the horn forced the second overtime.
“Down the stretch, I thought Jamal and Nikola showed why they are one of the better dynamic duos in the entire NBA,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, according to the Denver Post.
Michael Porter Jr. had another solid outing, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds for Denver. Porter is averaging 25.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in five games at the bubble. Jerami Grant scored 21 points off the bench.
The Nuggets played without Will Barton (right knee soreness) and Gary Harris (hip) for the fifth straight contest. Both were ruled out for Monday according to the NBA’s injury report late Sunday afternoon.
–Field Level Media