The Los Angeles Lakers' topsy-turvy season has taken another dip.
The Denver Nuggets handed L.A. its third straight loss Saturday night, absolutely smashing the Lakers 133-96 behind Nikola Jokic's eighth triple-double of the season and a Bones Hyland double-double.
Denver moved to 22-19 on the season with the win, while the Lakers dipped back under .500 (21-22) with the loss. One piece of good news for the Lakers in an otherwise disappointing season to date is that just six teams in the Western Conference have winning records to date.
The other piece of good news is that, according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, there is "optimism" within the organization that superstar big man Anthony Davis "could return to game action sometime during L.A.'s long road trip at the end of the month."
The Lakers desperately need Davis. Since spraining his MCL in mid-December, they're just 5-8. And a Nuggets team dealing with its own injury issues this season hammered them Saturday, as Jokic added another bullet point to his MVP candidacy.
Nikola Jokic, DEN: 17 points, 13 assists, 12 rebounds
Bones Hyland, DEN: 27 points, 10 rebounds
Jeff Green, DEN: 26 points, four assists
LeBron James, LAL: 25 points, nine rebounds
Russell Westbrook, LAL: 19 points, five rebounds
Dwight Howard, LAL: 13 points
Bones Hyland Had Himself a Night
While Jokic was busy showing off why he should win his second straight MVP, Hyland was having fun.
The rookie set career highs in points, (27), made threes (six) and rebounds (10). He was awesome Saturday.
With Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. reportedly out until at least April, the Nuggets need players like Hyland to step up behind Jokic and Aaron Gordon. Hyland has been up-and-down this season, as to be expected from a rookie, but he showed out against the Lakers.
AD's Absence Is Killing the Lakers
The Lakers are a mess, and while some of the problems seem to be issues of wonky roster construction, there's little doubt that Davis' injury absence is exposing some fundamental concerns, namely on the defensive end.
And that has to be at least part of why L.A.'s general vibe of late has just felt...off.
It would be easy to blame Westbrook's poor fit next to James, or the absence of AD, for the team's struggles. But the Lakers shouldn't go from good on the defensive end to downright dreadful without AD. There appear to be deeper issues with this team.
They now have half a season to resolve them.
The Nuggets will host the Utah Jazz on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET. The Lakers will look to end their losing streak the next night when they host the Jazz at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV.