Talen Horton-Tucker drives to the basket

Three Things to Know: Lakers at Nuggets - 4/10/22

by Matthew Barrero

The Lakers (32-49) will take the court for the final time this season with a visit to the Mile High City and a matchup with the Denver Nuggets (48-33). Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet.

Here are three things to know before the game:

Despite not having LeBron, AD, Russ, and Carmelo suit up for the home finale Friday night, the Purple and Gold were able to break their eight-game skid and pick up a victory in front of a faithful Lakers Nation.

Eight of the nine Lakers who touched the floor finished in double-digit scoring with Stanley Johnson leading the way with a season-high 21 points (8-16 FG).

“Stanley has really been a big lift this year,” Frank Vogel said postgame. “The physicality he plays with, the hustle he plays with, is something this group really needed. It’s reflected in the role that he carved out for himself right away when we signed him.”

On top of Johnson’s performance, the big man duo of Dwight Howard and Wenyen Gabriel combined for 31 points (11-of-14 from the field), 15 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks. Gabriel was a game-best plus-24.

The win gave the Lakers its 21st home victory and a winning record on home court (21-20).

“Team-win,” Vogel said. “We guarded finally, especially in the fourth quarter (held OKC to 19 points). That’s one of thing we struggled with while we were in this losing streak, not closing out games defensively. Our guys sat down and guarded and got enough stops to secure the win.”

Following a Western Conference Semifinal loss to the Agua Caliente Clippers Thursday night, Mason Jones was in the Laker lineup Friday night and looked just as stellar as he has looked all season in the G-League.

In his 18 minutes, Jones went 4-for-4 from the field, knocked down his only three-point attempt, and executed three and-ones with his physical play. He finished the night with 13 points, three rebounds, and an assist and was a plus-21 (second highest on the night).

“To be honest, it’s really all credit to the staff from South Bay because I really didn’t have a bad mindset being down there,” Jones said in his postgame presser. “I really took advantage of the opportunity and when I was down there, I just wanted to continue to get better. I was very blessed to have the opportunity to just be in the South Bay organization to have this chance to be a two-way player with the Lakers.”

Jones finished his season in the G-League as the top scorer for South Bay and had the fourth-best average in the entire league (25.5). In the two playoff games, Jones averaged 28.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and hit 45.0 percent of his shots from the field (including 47.0 percent from three).

In addition to Jones, it was announced Saturday morning that Mac McClung signed a two-way contract with the Lake Show. In 27 G-League starts, McClung averaged 21.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and shot 46.7 percent from the field (37.4 percent from three).

McClung registered two double-doubles in both G-League playoff games and averaged 22.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 10.0 assists.

On top of the two-way contract signing, McClung was named G-League Rookie of the Year.

The Nuggets have already clinched a spot in the playoffs but have a lot to play for in terms of final seeding. Denver is currently a 6-seed and has an identical record with 5-seed Utah (Jazz hold tiebreaker with 4-0 head-to-head advantage).

The Nuggets would need to defeat L.A. and have Utah to lose to Portland in order to swap positions.

Nikola Jokic enters the final regular season game leading the MVP race and achieved his latest milestone in Thursday’s win over Memphis.

Not only did The Joker add to his league-leading double-double stat line (earned his 66th of the season with 35 points and 16 rebounds vs MEM), Jokic became the first player in NBA history to register 2,000-plus points, 1,000-plus rebounds, and 500-plus assists in a single NBA season.

His competitors, Joel Embiid (30.4 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.9 points) sit one, two, respectively at the top of the leading scorers list while Jokic (27.1 points) is currently in sixth.

Against the Lakers this season, Jokic has averaged 27.5 points on 64.7 percent from the field, 15.0 rebounds, and 9.5 assists.

Should L.A. lose its final game tonight, it would mark a season with 50 or more losses for the first time since the 2016-17 season. From 2013-17, the Lakers finished four consecutive regular seasons with 50-plus losses.

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