Denver Nuggets 89, Los Angeles Lakers 93: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets came close to rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough against the Lakers as they left Los Angeles with a 93-89 defeat.

Denver clinched its spot in the playoffs after the Trail Blazers lost to the Atlanta Hawks earlier Monday evening. The team’s celebrations unfortunately wouldn’t extend into its game against the LeBron James-less Lakers though.

Nikola Jokić led the Nuggets with 32 points, nine rebounds, and five dimes. Anthony Davis paced the Lakers with 25 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks.

Denver struggled to find any consistency on offense against Los Angeles and saw its five-game win streak come to halt as a result. The team shot 43.9 percent and only connected on six of its 24 three-point attempts.

The Nuggets will now look to get back to winning ways when it faces the surprisingly surging Knicks at Ball Arena Wednesday (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE 2).

Here are the takeaways: 

Three-point disparity costly

The Nuggets shot just 25 percent on threes while the Lakers hit 13 on 43.8 percent shooting. With three-point shooting being essential in the modern NBA, it was one of the significant factors of why Denver couldn’t see its way through in a tight contest.

With the Nuggets’ guard quartet of Facundo Campazzo, PJ Dozier, Austin Rivers, and Shaq Harrison struggling offensively, the Lakers focused heavily on Michael Porter Jr. The Nuggets’ top three-point threat faced double-teams and physical defending all night and only connected on one three in the first three quarters.

Porter Jr. did play a crucial role in helping the Nuggets rally, putting up nine on 4 of 5 shooting, Denver couldn’t secure the breaks it needed to steal a win.

Another area where the team will likely be disappointed with is its free-throw shooting. The Nuggets are one of the better teams at the charity stripe in the NBA, converting at 79.6 percent a night (seventh in the NBA). On Monday, the team missed five attempts and shot 68.8 percent overall from the line. In a tight game against one of the NBA’s elite defensive teams, every margin is critical. Converting more at the line could have also made a difference.

McGee, Campazzo, AG provide a defensive spark

JaVale McGee collected his 2020 championship ring and then proceeded to haunt his former team with 10 points, three boards, and a block in just 13 minutes of action. The veteran center has had an inconsistent role this season but continues to be effective whenever he’s on the floor. That’s a credit to his continued professionalism on the court.

Facundo Campazzo and Aaron Gordon didn’t have a substantial impact in scoring, combining for 13, but their presence was certainly felt on the other end.

Campazzo finished the night with an NBA career-high in steals, with five takeaways. The Argentine was all over the court Monday and also played a big role in setting up others. The rookie had eight dimes on the night.

Gordon had some strong flashes of what he could do defensively against Davis, blocking the Lakers star twice en route to a four-swat night – tying his career-high. The Nuggets’ big man also added six boards.

Injury bug strikes again

The Nuggets have battled through ailments to their players the entire season and unfortunately saw another player go down in Dozier. The guard, who was coming off one of his best games of the season against the Clippers, went down in the first minute of the fourth quarter with a right hip tightness injury. It adds to an already injury-ravaged backcourt for Denver, who is currently missing Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, and Will Barton III.

The injury also appeared to knock some of the wind out of the Nuggets’ sails in the final 12 minutes. Michael Malone’s team entered the fourth quarter trailing by five but saw its deficit go to 14 after Dozier walked off the court. The Lakers went on a 9-4 run after that moment. The team will now wait to learn the severity of Dozier’s injury ahead of the game against Knicks.

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