National Basketball Association
Lakers-Nuggets Preview
National Basketball Association

Lakers-Nuggets Preview

Updated Mar. 5, 2020 1:26 a.m. ET

Kobe Bryant turned back the clock in his last appearance at the Pepsi Center, saying "I can still play a little bit" but stopping short of having second thoughts about retirement.

Now the future Hall of Famer is hoping to put on one final show there Wednesday night.

Returning to an area that likely conjures up some mixed emotions, Bryant is expected to return from a sore right shoulder against the Denver Nuggets as he tries to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to back-to-back victories.

Although the 37-year-old guard has missed the past two games for the Lakers (12-49), Bryant has made a concerted effort to play when visiting an arena for the last time.


He's averaged 29.8 points in eight playoff road games spanning three series against the Nuggets (23-37), including a six-gamer in the 2009 Western Conference finals.

Bryant scored 51 there Feb. 12, 2003, but was accused in a publicized sexual assault case in Colorado that same year. The charges were dropped, and a civil suit was settled out of court.

The 18-time All-Star looked like he did in his glory years as his 31 points led the Lakers to a 111-107 road win over the Nuggets on Dec. 22. He also held guard Will Barton to two second-half points after he had poured in 23 over the first two quarters.

"We didn't have anybody that could guard (Kobe),'' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

This time, Bryant is expected to receive a tribute and more love from the crowd in his final visit. He's also hoping to help West-worst Los Angeles snap a six-game road losing streak and win two in a row overall for only the second time since a three-game run from Dec. 30-Jan. 3.

D'Angelo Russell had season highs of 39 points and eight 3-pointers - including two in the final minute - in Tuesday's 107-101 home win over Brooklyn that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

The point guard finished with the most points by a rookie this season and the most by a Lakers rookie in a regular-season game since Elgin Baylor had 55 on March 11, 1959.

''He just had one of those games where everything seemed to be falling in place for him,'' coach Byron Scott said.

The Nuggets are 0-3 at home and 1-5 overall since the All-Star break. They shot 53.3 percent Monday but had 20 turnovers in a 103-96 loss to Memphis to open a seven-game homestand.

Denver is averaging 17.8 turnovers and allowing 109.5 points per game during this stretch.

''It's hard to beat a team when they shoot 36 free throws and we give up 30 points on turnovers,'' said Gary Harris, who had 15 points. "We've just got to clean up those areas.''

Kenneth Faried has averaged 19 points and 11.3 rebounds over three straight double-doubles, but he's questionable with a sore back. The power forward led the way with a season-high 28 points and 15 rebounds in Denver's 120-109 road win over the Lakers on Nov. 3.

Harris finished with a career-high 21 points in the December matchup when the Nuggets lost for only the second time in the past 12 meetings. They'll be without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari for at least one month because of torn ligaments in his ankle.

Lakers guard Lou Williams is out after suffering a strained hamstring against the Nets.


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