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Anthony Davis brilliant, Lakers still come up short to Nuggets

Anthony Davis was back to his dominant ways on Sunday against the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic, but the same old Lakers came up short to the Nuggets by the final buzzer.

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A clearly-hobbled Anthony Davis gutted out a superb effort in Sunday afternoon’s matinee showdown with the Denver Nuggets, but it wasn’t enough as the visitors came away with a 129-118 win. The shorthanded Lakers, who were without LeBron James as he still works his way back from a sprained ankle suffered last Sunday, followed a familiar formula of battling hard for three quarters before running out of gas.

Davis was visibly uncomfortable throughout the game as he continues to deal with lingering pain from his left foot sprain, but that didn’t stop him from a monster performance of 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists with three blocks and two steals. While the pain led to him looking a step slow at times, particularly defensively matched up against Nikola Jokic, Davis put forth an admirable effort.

Russell Westbrook had one of his better games of the season, scoring 27 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists on 11-15 shooting from the field. Jokic, though, was the man of the night with 38 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.

As was the case in returning from his last lengthy injury absence, Davis has hit the ground running in his return to the court. On Sunday, it was his playmaking that caught the eye as part of his stellar showing. Alongside a spry Westbrook, the star pair used a two-man game to create offense for the Lakers with Davis setting his career-high in assists as a Laker with eight.

Westbrook’s energy and springiness was best seen in his monster dunk on DeMarcus Cousins in the final seconds of the first half.

Led by Westbrook and Davis, the Lakers kept pace with the Nuggets and held multiple multi-possession leads through the opening three frames. But a Jokic-fueled run in the third quarter got the guests over the hump and pushed them into the lead, an advantage they held by a single point going into the fourth period.

Carmelo Anthony was back to his Staples/Crypto best on Sunday, knocking down a number of mid- and long-range efforts to keep the Lakers in the game, scoring 17 points off the bench.

The Nuggets, though, began tightening their grip on the game with a 13-2 run in the middle of the fourth quarter to open up a double-digit lead. The Lakers chipped away at the lead in the fourth, bringing it down to six points at 122-116, but could not get closer.

A missed Malik Monk layup and a putback Jokic layup and free throw restored the lead to nine points at 125-116 with just over a minute left, icing the game.

The Lakers fall to 1.5 games back of the Spurs for the 10th seed ahead of their game on Sunday evening against the Trail Blazers. The ninth seed is effectively out of reach at this point with Sunday’s loss dropping them 3.5 games back with four games remaining.

The Lakers travel to play the Suns on Tuesday for their last stop in Phoenix this season. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. PT and will be televised on both Spectrum SportsNet and NBA TV.

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