LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James had 28 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds while leading the Los Angeles Lakers’ late rally for his first home victory at Staples Center, 121-114 over the previously unbeaten Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
Kyle Kuzma scored 22 points and JaVale McGee added 21 to complement James’ 74th career triple-double, his first with his new team.
With Kobe Bryant watching from a courtside seat for the first time since LeBron’s arrival in LA, the Lakers trailed by eight points with six minutes left in the fourth quarter before Lance Stephenson started a 15-2 rally with back-to-back 3-pointers. Stephenson finished with 12 points.
James got Staples Center rocking on a go-ahead dunk with 3:31 to play before Lonzo Ball made an artful step-back 3-pointer. Kuzma added two huge dunks down the stretch of Los Angeles’ second win in two days after an 0-3 start.
Nikola Jokic scored 24 points for the Nuggets, who were off to their best start since the 2009-10 season. Jamal Murray scored 22 points and Monte Morris had 20, but Denver couldn’t answer the Lakers’ rally led by James, who posted his third career triple-double in Staples Center for his third different team.
One night after earning their first win of the LeBron era in Phoenix, the Lakers beat the Nuggets at Staples for the fourth straight time.
The Lakers also survived despite their third straight game without suspended starters Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo. Ingram will miss one more game for his role in the Lakers’ brawl with the Houston Rockets last weekend, while Rondo can return Saturday in San Antonio.
Neither team led by more than six points in the first three quarters of a typically up-tempo game between two of the NBA’s fastest offenses. While the Lakers lead the league in pace of play, the Nuggets’ improvements on defense this season drove their unbeaten start, according to coach Michael Malone.
Nuggets: Isaiah Thomas attended the game, but didn’t play while recovering from offseason hip surgery. The compact guard finished last season with the Lakers, averaging 15.6 points in 17 games after getting traded by James’ Cavaliers. … Will Barton missed his third straight game with a hip injury.
Lakers: Rookie Svi Mykhailiuk had four points. The Ukrainian guard scored his first NBA points one night earlier in Phoenix. … Fans near courtside besides Bryant included actor Michael B. Jordan, Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig and NFL rushing leader Todd Gurley.
Bryant sat with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, his former agent, in a rare visit since the 20-year Lakers veteran retired in 2016. Bryant spoke to a group of season ticket holders before the game about his forthcoming book. The Staples Center crowd started a “Kobe! Kobe!” chant early in the fourth quarter for the most popular athlete in this building’s history, but LeBron promptly hit a 3-pointer.
Nuggets: Host New Orleans on Monday.
Lakers: At San Antonio on Saturday.
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