Lakers look on bright side: Despite another loss, they keep fighting spirit

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook attempts a layup as Nuggets guard Davon Reed puts a hand over his face.
Lakers guard Russell Westbrook attempts a layup as Nuggets guard Davon Reed puts a hand over his face during the game Sunday afternoon at Arena.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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The Lakers claimed as a group that their spirit has not been broken as they struggle to collect wins.

Even as the Lakers stubbled yet again Sunday in a 129-118 loss to Denver, as they played yet again without one of their stars, and as their season heads toward the abyss, they are maintaining hope.

Hope that the Lakers can break a six-game losing streak. Hope that LeBron James can play Tuesday night at Phoenix after the star missed Sunday’s game because of soreness in his left ankle. Hope that all is not lost for the Lakers to claim the last spot in the NBA’s play-in tournament.


Their defeat to the Nuggets had all the familiar sounds.

The Lakers scored just 24 points in the fourth quarter; the Nuggets had 34. The Lakers shot 34.8% from the field in the fourth quarter; the Nuggets shot 62.5%.

Anthony Davis played through pain in his second straight game back after missing 18 because of a sprained right foot.

L.A. Lakers star LeBron James missed the loss to the Nuggets on Sunday because of ankle soreness, while Denver’s Nikola Jokic dominated again.

April 3, 2022

“We fought hard,” Davis said after producing 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. “We know the situation that we’re in, especially with losing today. It’s another must-win, must-must win in Phoenix. A team that’s playing well but also can be beat.

“But the spirits are high. We’re not the one team that’s going to fold until it’s all the way over. We got four games left and our job is to try to go out and compete and win every one of those.”

The Lakers, though, face a Suns team with the best record in the NBA at 62-16, the start of a final four-game stretch of the season in which Los Angeles will meet three teams with winning records.

The Lakers are the 11th-place team in the Western Conference, leaving them out of the play-in tournament unless they can catch San Antonio, which increased their lead over the Lakers to two games. Since the Spurs hold the season-series tiebreaker, L.A. can’t afford another loss and has to hope for some San Antonio losses.


They are 16 games below .500 (31-47), showing no signs of reaching the promise they were supposed to have when the season started.

Speaking at the unveiling of a social justice trophy in his name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said LeBron James’ actions are ‘beneath him’ sometimes.

April 3, 2022

Yet they have not been mathematically eliminated, and thus there is reason for keeping the right spirit.

“I think that’s the difficult part, to be honest, keeping everybody together. Not saying that we’re not, but it can be a difficult task of keeping everybody together,” Carmelo Anthony said. “Not saying that we’re not but it can be a difficult task of keeping guys together right now coming down to the end of the season or the end of the stretch, understanding the situation that we’re in.

”Guys can easily just start checking out. We haven’t seen that — I know I haven’t seen that from guys at least when I’m around, at practice, on the bus, on the plane. I haven’t seen anybody giving up, so it’s a feeling that we never thought that we was going to experience or will experience but it’s here and there’s nothing we can do at this point but look it in the face and embrace it.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said his guys are competing “their asses off” and not giving up despite the circumstances.

Vogel was asked if he has a sense of pride for how the Lakers are hanging in there.

“It is the right word and what’s it like? It sucks,” Vogel said. “ Sucks telling these guys after every game, ‘I’m proud of you. Good effort. We lost.’ So, it’s not fun, but it could be worse.


“It’s easy to unravel. Our group has stayed together. They’re putting up the good fight. Their attitude has been wonderful, in terms of just working together to get this thing right. And it’s just disappointing to come in to keep saying we fell short.”