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Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Nuggets - 4/3/22

The Lakers (31-46) have lost five-in-a-row at a point in the season where earning wins is an absolute necessity. The road ahead is not easy and starts with an afternoon matchup against the Denver Nuggets (46-32). Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. PT exclusively on ABC.

Here are three things to know before the game:

THEY’RE BACK
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were back in the Laker lineup and played together for the first time since Feb. 16, the same night AD went down with a foot injury.

While a win would have surely solidified an exemplary Friday night for the Lake Show, the return of the team’s superstars and their immediate impact provided signs of optimism for the final stretch of games.

LeBron led all scorers with 38 points on 13-of-23 from the field and didn’t show any signs of problems with his ankle on several hustle plays.

His 38-point performance also marks his fifth-straight game with 35-plus points for just the second time in his career (had nine-straight 35-point games in 2005-06).

Davis saw real-game action for the first time in 44 days and had no trouble settling in. After winning the opening tip, AD pulled up from 17-feet and knocked the first shot of the game. He went on to play 37 minutes and registered 23 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and a steal for his 18th double-double of the campaign.

“I felt really good,” Davis said after the game. “Last four minutes it was definitely a struggle, getting a little sore. I’m not all the way where I want [the foot] to be. Maybe that’s what the discomfort was in the fourth quarter.”

LEADING MAN
Nikola Jokic is a monster among men. The Joker is currently the favorite to be named league MVP and has the numbers to back it up.

He leads the league in double-doubles (63) and triple-doubles (19) and leads the Nuggets in every traditional category (26.6 PTS, 10.8 REB, 8.0 AST, 1.4 STL, 0.8 BLK). In his last 15 games, Jokic has finished the night as the Nuggets leader in points and rebounds and has been the assists leader in 14 of the last 15.

Jokic’s total numbers in March:
- 449 points (3rd in NBA)
- 191 rebounds (2nd)
- 119 assists (5th)
- 25 steals (T-7th)
- 21 blocks (T-6th)

He is just the second player to ever finish a month top-10 in all five categories since steals and blocks became official.

In their last meeting in January, Jokic had a relatively quiet night against the Lakers but still managed to record a triple-double in the first half. He would finish the contest with 17 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds for his eighth TD3 of the year.

Even with the low-scoring night, Jokic had tremendous help from his teammates who knocked down a season-high 23 three-pointers on 40 attempts (second-most 3PM in franchise history).

Seven of the 10 Nuggets finished with double-digit points including rookie Bones Hyland, who scored a career high 27 points on 6-of-10 from beyond the arc and added 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.

EVERY GAME MATTERS
Including today’s game, only five games remain in the regular season for the Lake Show, and the schedule is less than favorable.

Of L.A.’s remaining opponents, three of the four are playoff bound (Denver x2, Phoenix, Golden State) with the final home game (April 8) against an Oklahoma City team that overcame two separate 19-plus point deficits in wins. The Lakers have a combined 2-8 record against the four teams.

Friday’s loss puts the Lakers backs up against a colossal wall as every game left will be a must win; something LeBron was already prepared for.

“We had great opportunities throughout the night, and we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch while they did,” James said. "For us as a team, obviously it's a tough loss. We get an opportunity to get back at it with the quick turnaround on Sunday."

AD reiterated most of LeBron’s words but added that despite the loss, there is still belief in the team to make a late run.

“Our mindset is to go 5-0 in these games and let the chips falls where they may,” Davis said. “We got five left to try to control what we can control. Hopefully things fall in our favor.”

Lakers Pick 'Em