The Nuggets had won five straight games, but didn’t have guards Jamal Murray, Will Barton or Monte Morris. The Lakers had lost six of their last seven games, and didn’t have guard Dennis Schroder or future Hall-of-Famer LeBron James — but they did have Anthony Davis, and that was enough.
Davis dominated the decisive fourth quarter on both sides of the ball, and the Lakers dared any Nugget not named Nikola Jokic or Michael Porter Jr. to shoot. Jokic finished with 32 points despite being harassed by Davis and Marc Gasol, but it wasn’t easy; the Nuggets MVP candidate had to pass up shot after shot while watching Porter Jr. be smothered by double-teams for most of the night.
“I think we all forget who Marc Gasol is,” Jokic said after the game. “The guy who won two Defensive Players of the Year.”
The Nuggets’ top-scoring pair did drag them back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit and almost stole the game away when they trailed by only two points in the final minute, but an earlier injury to guard P.J. Dozier, a highly questionable call on Facundo Campazzo that was exacerbated by an almost hilarious flop by Davis, and more than a few missed whistles on Jokic’s tormentors contributed to the team’s demise.
The Nuggets fell to 1-2 on the season against the defending champions, but that didn’t dissuade Jokic, who expressed no fear in a potential first-round playoff matchup and rematch against the team that ended their season last fall.
“If it happens, it happens. Why not? If we want to win it, we need to play with the best. We are not going to try to (change) anything.”
NEXT UP: Nuggets (43-22) vs. Knicks (37-28) | Wednesday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m.
• Denver shot only 25 percent (6-for-24) from three-point range and 68.8 percent (11-for-16) from the free-throw line.
• Aaron Gordon did yeoman’s work defending Anthony Davis, helping to hold the Lakers’ big man to 9-for-19 shooting, and while it’s difficult to score on Davis, the Nuggets needed more offense than Gordon’s five points on 2-for-7 shooting. He did get four blocks and led the team in plus-minus with plus-8.
• Facundo Campazzo had five steals to lead the Nuggets and set a career high. He had eight points and eight assists, but his lack of height and poor shooting was problematic. Campazzo’s final, three-point attempt was easily blocked by Anthony Davis as the Lakers snuffed out any hope of a Nuggets comeback.
• P.J. Dozier hit the floor in the final quarter, grabbing at his groin when he suffered a non-contact injury. The Nuggets called it “hip tightness” following the game, and there was no word how many games, if any, that Dozier might miss. The Nuggets can’t afford to lose him; they’re down to only four healthy guards — Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers, Shaquille Harrison and Markus Howard.
• The Nuggets’ mere 65 points through three quarters on Monday was their lowest scoring output of the season to enter the fourth quarter.
THE FINAL WORD
“I don’t know if this team is cursed. We’ve got to bring in some kind of high priest to rid the team of any bad omens.” — Head coach Michael Malone, on the Nuggets’ disastrous injury situation.
G Facundo Campazzo (37)
G-F P.J. Dozier (22)
F Michael Porter Jr. (40)
F Aaron Gordon (25)
C Nikola Jokic (36)
G Austin Rivers (33)
F JaMychal Green (23)
G Shaquille Harrison (13)
C JaVale McGee (12)
F Bol Bol (DNP-CD)
F Vlatko Cancar (DNP-CD)
G Markus Howard (DNP-CD)
F Paul Millsap (DNP-CD)
• P.J. Dozier (right hip tightness) left the May 3 game and did not return. No updated information was available immediately after the game.
• Zeke Nnaji (ankle) missed the May 3 game and is day-to-day.
• Will Barton (hamstring) was injured on Apr. 23. Coach Michael Malone said Barton will be out “for the foreseeable future” on Apr. 24. It seems unlikely that he will be available until the playoffs, at the earliest.
• Monte Morris (hamstring) was injured on Apr. 16 and his return date is uncertain.
• Jamal Murray (torn left ACL) was injured in the final minute of the Apr. 12 game. His season is over, and realistically, Murray will be out until at least the 2022 All-Star break.
Shawn Drotar is the host of “The Fan Late Night with Shawn Drotar;” weeknights from 10:00 p.m. to midnight — only on 104.3 The Fan. Follow him on Twitter at @sdrotar.
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