Kobe Bryant returned to the court Wednesday night after a two-game layoff, playing only 11 minutes in Denver in the Lakers’ 117-107 loss to the Nuggets.
Bryant, nursing a sore shoulder, finished with just five points on two field-goal attempts, also hitting two of three free throws.
The Lakers also lost guard Jordan Clarkson in the third quarter when he strained his left knee. He had 13 points in 22 1/2 minutes.
After building a three-point lead with 9 minutes 12 seconds left in the game, the Lakers struggled to stop Denver reserve guard D.J. Augustin, who scored 26 points in 23 minutes.
Rookie Emmanuel Mudiay finished with 22 points and seven assists. Gary Harris scored 16, Nikola Jokic 14, Will Barton 11 and Kenneth Faried 10 for the Nuggets.
The Lakers were led by D’Angelo Russell, who followed up his 39-point effort on Tuesday with 24 points, 17 of which came in the first half.
Julius Randle contributed 17 points and seven rebounds while Brandon Bass gave the Lakers 11 points off the bench.
The Lakers shot 44.3% from the field, 35.5% (11 of 31) from behind the three-point arc and 81.2% (26 of 32) from the free-throw line. Denver shot 48.7%, 52.2% (12 of 23) and 76.3% (29 of 38), respectively.
The Lakers also played without Lou Williams (hamstring) and Larry Nance Jr. (knee). The Nuggets were missing Danilo Gallinari (ankle), Jameer Nelson (wrist) and Wilson Chandler (hip).
The Lakers (12-50) play again Friday, hosting the Atlanta Hawks (33-28) at Staples Center. The Nuggets (24-37) will host the Brooklyn Nets (17-44) on Friday.