Behind a remarkable fourth-quarter performance from Jaxson Hayes, the Lakers nearly pulled off the biggest win of the season before falling to the Nuggets on Thursday, 114-106.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, the Lakers chipped away and chipped away before a fourth-quarter, Hayes-inspired run brought them all the way back into the contest. The Lakers would eventually tie the game on multiple occasions, but never took the lead in the fourth.
A late 8-0 run from the Nuggets in the final minutes of the game sealed the victory for the guests in a game that felt all too familiar to their postseason defeats last year.
Anthony Davis had himself another dominant game, scoring 32 points with nine rebounds, three assists, four blocks, and three steals. LeBron James turned it up in the fourth quarter, finishing with 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Hayes finished with nine points and six rebounds, but five of those were offensive, in just 14 minutes of action. Tauren Prince continued to flourish off the bench, scoring 13 points on 4-6 shooting with two steals.
The game started with the Nuggets having all the momentum and the Lakers struggling to make a shot. Max Christie drained a three that helped jumpstart a wild sequence of events that had LeBron making what was an accidental pass to AD for the jam.
AD was doing a little bit of everything leaving his mark all over the game. The energy started to shift and both teams were playing with great intensity. Michael Porter Jr. was cooking for the Nuggets and was up to 11 points.
The Lakers went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 23. Back-to-back threes from the Nuggets put them up by six to end the first.
First quarter: Nuggets 29, Lakers 23— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 9, 2024
AD has 10 points. LA has been locked in defensively, for the most part, and forced Nikola Jokic into three live-ball turnovers. MPJ (11 points) is killing them -- they don't have a good matchup for him with Vando out. Denver is shooting 52%.
The offense started gelling and flowing much better in the second quarter. Taurean was having another strong showing off the bench and was up to eight points. The Lakers started getting lackadaisical with their defense which helped the Nuggets start gaining some momentum. They pushed their lead to eight after a Jamal Murray layup. Taurean continued being a spark by making a three that helped get the Lakers within six.
Max was up to seven points but had to go to the locker room after rolling his ankle. After that, the Nuggets started getting hot again and pushed their lead to nine. Taurean was keeping the Lakers afloat by cutting the lead down to seven, but Jamal made another three that pushed their lead to 10 at the half.
Max would not return to the game because of the ankle sprain he suffered in the first half so Taurean stepped into the starting five in his place. The Nuggets started the quarter hot and pushed their lead to 15.
A LeBron three cut some of the bleeding, but Aaron Gordon responded with a dunk. LeBron then made another three which cut the Nuggets lead to 11. Nikola Jokić and Jamal were starting to take over and pushed the lead back to 15.
After five attempts, Austin Reaves finally nailed a three and AD made a layup to get it to within 10 again. While Austin wasn’t having a strong night offensively, he was up to eight assists. The Nuggets' lead was now down to seven thanks to the Lakers going on an 8-0 run.
The Joker, who was up to 18 points, was making his presence known throughout this quarter. After a pair of free throws by AD, the Nuggets led by eight. A Jokic floater got it back to double digits, but AD responded. The Lakers' momentum was high with AD taking over the game. The Nuggets' lead was down to four to end the quarter.
The fourth quarter started with a long Jamal three and LeBron answered it was a layup. Hayes’ energy was sparking excellent momentum for the Lakers who were now only down by one. Both teams were in an intense battle, going back and forth. Jaxson was up to eight points and was the leader of the Lakers' momentum.
After the Lakers tied the game with a Skylar Mays lob to AD, MPJ answered back with a 3-pointer to keep the Nuggets up by three. It was a one-point game after an AD dunk. Aaron Gordon made it a two-point lead for the Nuggets with one made free throw. LeBron knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game at 100.
The Nuggets went up by three again, but after a Jaxson block and Austin three, it was a tie game again. Jamal answered back with a three, then knocked down a layup to get them up by five. The Lakers once again left MPJ open and he nailed a three to push the lead up to eight with 1:05 left and seal the game.
They need to stop leaving players open at the three, they got cooked all game by Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray.
The Lakers beat the Nuggets in the steals department which was a big reason why they were able to withstand falling behind big in this game. The defensive impact was huge.
They lost in the rebound battle, they need to win that.
Taurean Prince off the bench has become a welcomed spark the team has needed all season.
The Lakers’ next game is on Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:30 PM PT.
You can follow Karin on Twitter at @KarinAbcarians.