After a determined rally and a tight overtime defeat against the best team in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers have reasons to feel optimistic about the season ahead.

Although the Lakers themselves aren’t trying to parse out the positives from a 122-118 home defeat against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

Instead, Los Angeles will go into a meeting Friday at home against the Denver Nuggets with a resolve to fix what went wrong after a game that was characterized as a disappointment more than anything.

Lakers star LeBron James was asked what the resilient effort meant to the team.

“Nothing,” he said. “That we lost. You’re talking to the wrong guy talking about an almost win.”

After starting the season 2-10 and going 9-6 since, the Lakers believe they have more in them. They saw it Dec. 2 during a 133-129 road victory against the Milwaukee Bucks to open a 3-3 road trip. While Los Angeles has improved, though, its last two defeats had a common theme.

In defeats last week on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers and this week against the Celtics, both games went to overtime after a Lakers rally. And Los Angeles had a chance to win both games had Anthony Davis been able to make late free throws.

Davis missed one of two free throws against the Sixers with 3.7 seconds remaining to force OT. He missed two free throws with 28.2 seconds remaining and a two-point lead against the Celtics, allowing Boston to tie the game.

“Had a chance to ice the game and missed both,” Davis said.

The Nuggets were left scratching their heads following a season-long three game losing streak to open December. But they have responded with their current three-game winning streak and look more like the team that closed November with four consecutive victories.

The Nuggets are coming off a 141-128 victory at home Wednesday over the Washington Wizards that was not only the highest scoring game of the season for the team, Nikola Jokic delivered a season-best 43 points. Denver shot 65.1 percent from the field.

Jokic shot 17 of 20 from the field and grabbed 14 rebounds. The two-time defending NBA MVP leads the Nuggets with 24.6 points per game, 10.3 rebounds and 9.0 assists. He even has a team-best 1.4 steals per game.

After the game, Jokic was presented his 2021-22 MVP award as the team assembled in the locker room, rounding out a complete night.

“I was rolling, guys were finding me and I pretty much had – I’m not going to say layups, but I was right there (at the basket),” Jokic said afterward on the AltitudeTV broadcast.

The Nuggets scored 98 of their points in the paint to set a franchise record.

“We couldn’t make shots so we needed to attack the paint,” Jokic said. “They were missing some bigger players so we just used that (strategy).”

Scoring inside isn’t expected to come as easy against the Lakers. And a better brand of defense will be needed from Denver, after Washington shot 52.7 percent from the field and 48.7 percent from 3-point range with their makeshift lineup.

–Field Level Media