LOS ANGELES • Scuffling the past week, the Los Angeles Lakers ground out a 93-89 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Monday.
Despite missing their two primary distributors in LeBron James (sore ankle) and Dennis Schroder (Covid-19 protocols), the Lakers played with renewed energy.
Anthony Davis had his best game since returning a week ago after two months out with a calf strain, finishing with 25 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
The forward also came up with a key block at the end of the game as Facundo Campazzo attempted a three-pointer to seal the win.
"I know with LeBron and Dennis out, the team count on me more. I made the effort to come out and play with pace. It was good to see us play our style. We have to feed off this game," Davis said.
This was his seventh game since his long spell on the sidelines but the first he has played at an All-Star level.
"He's getting more and more in rhythm each game and getting his legs under him. He's at his best when he's assertive on both sides of the floor," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
With the victory, the Lakers (37-28) moved back into the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference, half a game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and a game ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers.
The loss ended Denver's five-game winning streak and dropped the Nuggets (43-22) into a tie with the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 3 seed in the West.
Alex Caruso, who started in place of Schroder, contributed 11 points, while teammates Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Talen Horton-Tucker and Marc Gasol added 10 points apiece.
Vogel later revealed Schroder will miss the next 10 to 14 days due to the NBA's health and safety protocols, likely ruling him out for the rest of the regular season.
The German guard missed four games earlier this season for the same reason, while James, who returned last week after a month out, also did not play in the second game of a back-to-back.
Nikola Jokic paced the Nuggets with 32 points and nine rebounds, while Michael Porter Jr contributed 19 points.
Following the Blazers' 123-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Denver are assured of finishing in the top six in the West and do not have to worry about the play-in tournament.
Unlike last season, when the maiden play-in tournament saw the Memphis Grizzlies and Blazers square off, the East will also be involved as the teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages in each conference will each have two opportunities to win one game to earn a play-off spot.