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Lakers, LeBron on brink after Denver rout

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Nikola Jokic scored 38 points on Sunday as the Denver Nuggets sent the Los Angeles Lakers spinning to a sixth straight defeat and closer to elimination from NBA postseason contention.

With LeBron James looking on from the sidelines, a patched-up Lakers team was unable to contain Jokic down the stretch as the Nuggets powered to a 129-118 win at the Lakers’
Crypto.com Arena.

The defeat leaves the Lakers needing a miracle to overtake the San Antonio Spurs for a place in the postseason play-in tournament.

The Lakers are 11th in the Western Conference, with a 31-47 record. San Antonio occupy 10th place – and are on track for a spot in the play-in – with a 32-45 record.

With just four games remaining, the Lakers have precious little margin for error – and dauntingly face a trip to the league-leading Phoenix Suns today.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers scores a basket against Herbert Jones of the New Orleans Pelicans. PHOTO: AFP

Defeat in Arizona could see them eliminated from playoff contention depending on results elsewhere.

If the Lakers fail to reach the postseason, it would mark only the fourth time since LeBron

James entered the league in 2003 that he has not gone to the playoffs.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel could not hide his dejection after Sunday’s damaging defeat.
“What’s it like? It sucks,” Vogel responded to a reporter.

“It sucks telling these guys every game ‘Proud of you, good effort – we lost.’ It’s not fun but it could be worse, if things were untraveling. But our team has stayed together – they’ve put in fight, their attitude has been wonderful,” Vogel said.

“It’s just disappointing to come in and keep saying we fell short.”

“It sucks we can’t get over the damn hump and put a ‘W’ on the board when we need it,” he added. “But our guys’ spirit is really pure. They’re fighting a good fight but we just keep falling short.”

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