Defensive-minded Nuggets visit LeBron, Lakers

In a flow since the All-Star break and playing with a renewed commitment on defense, the Denver Nuggets will put a five-game winning streak on the line when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

The contest also will feature Lakers star LeBron James and his pursuit of 40,000 career points. He is nine away.

The Nuggets posted consecutive home victories by holding the Sacramento Kings and Miami Heat under 100 points, the first time they have done so in back-to-back games this season. They have kept an opponent under 100 just five times this season.

In their 103-97 victory over the Heat on Thursday, Michael Porter Jr. scored 30 points with 11 rebounds, and Nikola Jokic had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, seeing his streak of four consecutive triple-doubles come to an end.

The game was a rematch of the 2023 NBA Finals that Denver won in five games.

The only downside Thursday was a sprained right ankle for Jamal Murray, who departed in the second quarter with six points in 14 minutes and did not return. His status remains up in the air for Saturday.

“If there’s any hesitancy, then he won’t play in L.A. if the ankle’s not right,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “The question is never, ‘Can I go play?’ No, can you play effectively? If you’re not playing effectively, you’re putting everybody else at a disadvantage.

“So we’ll see. And if he’s not able to play against the Lakers then we’ll hopefully get him back (Tuesday) for Phoenix.”

The Nuggets have won both games against the Lakers this season and have taken three consecutive going back to last campaign. The most recent Denver victory over Los Angeles was a 114-106 road decision Feb. 8 when Murray scored 29 points and added 11 assists.

As good as Denver has been on defense lately, it likely won’t be good enough to prevent history. James, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, is set to become the first player in league history to reach the 40,000-point mark.

James scored 31 points in a 134-131 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards on Thursday.

That came one day after he scored 19 in the fourth quarter, and 34 in the game, to deliver a 116-112 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, leading a rally from a 21-point deficit with just over 11 minutes remaining.

Anthony Davis had 40 points and 15 rebounds against the Wizards on Thursday as the Lakers won for the ninth time in 12 games. It was his third game of at least 40 points this season.

He also topped 40 at the league’s in-season championship game, which doesn’t count in the regular-season standings, scoring 41 in the win over Indiana.

James now will get his shot at what has previously been an unreachable milestone, and the opportunity will come in a nationally televised game.

“For me to be in this position at this point and time in my career, I think it’s pretty cool,” James said. “Does it sit at the top of the things I’ve done in my career? No. But does it mean something? Of course, absolutely. Why wouldn’t it?

“To be able to accomplish things in this league, with the greatest players to ever play in this league, the NBA, has been a dream of mine and to hit feats and have milestones throughout my career, they all mean something to me.”