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Lakers vs. Nuggets Preview: Desperately waiting on Anthony Davis

The Lakers are the last remaining winless team in the NBA, now five games into the season.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

On Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers suffered their fifth consecutive loss to start the 2022-23 season, losing in Minnesota to the Timberwolves.

That game concluded their first road trip of the season, a two-game trip that began in Denver against the Nuggets. The Lakers will now look to get quick revenge as they face the Nuggets in L.A. on Sunday.

While doing so, they will be looking to avoid setting new precedents that show just how badly the team is playing right now, the most notable of which would be a dreadful 0-6 start to the season.

On Friday, the Lakers started 0-5 for the first time since the 2014-15 season. A campaign that featured Kobe Bryant, head coach Byron Scott, and these fine folks.

But when was the last time the Lakers went 0-6? The 2014-15 team was able to win their sixth game (before losing four straight to make them 1-9 in the first ten games). Before that, you have to go all the way back to the 1957-58 season (in Minneapolis) to find an 0-6 start for the Lakers. That team started 0-7, so rest easy... if the Lakers lose in this game against the Nuggets we don’t have to rush to see when/if the next rock bottom happened.

The only history involved on this team that comes close to the long and storied history of the Lakers is the individual one of LeBron James. He’s entering year 20 of his decorated career, and in that time he’s only started 0-5 once. That came in his 2003-04 rookie year when the Cavaliers still had to get the roster up to speed to match their new prodigy’s talent.

They won their sixth game, with LeBron never coming close to that 0-6 season-opening mark again.

Until now...

LeBron will need an other-worldly effort to beat these 4-2 Denver Nuggets, especially given the fact that he may not have Anthony Davis at all, let alone a healthy AD.

Speaking of which...

Will Anthony Davis play? Should he?

It was announced late Saturday that Davis would be questionable on the injury report for this Nuggets game. This comes after Davis missed Friday’s game vs. the Timberwolves with lower back tightness that’s plagued him since the early days of training camp. He fell hard on the back in the Oct. 20 game vs. the Clippers, with it visibly bothering him over the course of the entire game that the Lakers played against the Nuggets on Oct. 26.

Davis and Nikola Jokić have seemingly enjoyed going against each other over the entire time that Davis has been in a Lakers uniform, but AD’s “questionable” status for the game leaves another matchup between these two all-NBA bigs in doubt. Jokić got the upper hand not only in the final score in Wednesday’s game but in the two individuals’ performances as he scored 31 to Davis’ 22.

AD was getting anything he wanted in the first half, but after the back was really starting to bother him, the Lakers rarely looked to even have their big man try and score during the second half while he was getting outmuscled more times than once by Jokić on the defensive end.

The Lakers and AD will now have to toe the line between the short-term and the long-term on Sunday. Do they sit AD again in the hopes that the Lakers steal a win, or at least be competitive enough that the team’s morale doesn’t get too low? Or do they have him play through the pain and risk aggravating it even more in pursuit of giving themselves the best chance to avoid another depressing benchmark being set?

The Nuggets don’t have two extremely large centers playing high minutes like the Timberwolves have with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, but Nikola Jokić is no string bean. Don’t let his ability to stretch the floor fool you, he’s more of a traditional and bruising big man than he gets credit for. And if AD is out there at any percent less than 100, Jokić will take it to him. If centers like Damian Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, or LeBron James are in his way, then the results for the Lakers may be even worse than if a banged-up AD is out there.

There are a lot of factors at play, and if AD doesn’t play with yet another loss suffered to make the Lakers 0-6, then the pressure will only keep building to get AD back on the court.

Notes and Updates

  • Other than Anthony Davis, the only Lakers player in danger of missing Sunday’s game appears to be Juan Toscano-Anderson (ankle sprain), as he is also questionable. LeBron has been listed as probable with that foot soreness for a few games now, while Russell Westbrook makes no appearance as that hamstring seems to have responded well to Friday’s game.
  • Davon Reed will be questionable (personal reasons) and Collin Gillespie (leg fracture) will be out for the Nuggets. Our old friend Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will also be questionable with a left ankle sprain he actually suffered in Wednesday’s game vs. the Lakers. He missed the Nuggets’ game on Friday vs. the Jazz.
  • No mention of Michael Porter Jr. on the Nuggets’ injury report. Porter missed Wednesday’s game vs. the Lakers for injury management after back surgery caused him to miss all of last season. It was his only missed game this year.

The Lakers and Nuggets will tip off at 6:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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