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Nuggets look to start 5-0 in game against Lakers

The Denver Nuggets will try to start 5-0 for the first time since 2009-10 when they play the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at Staples Center.

The strong start by the Nuggets can be credited to their defense, which is giving up an average of 99.8 points a game. Denver and the Boston Celtics are the only NBA teams currently holding their opponents under 100 points a game on average.

The Lakers (1-3) came into Wednesday giving up the most points in the NBA on average (131.7), and then played their best game so far in a 131-113 road win against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night.

Lakers forward LeBron James played just 28 minutes and was able to sit out the fourth quarter after producing 19 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists to help Los Angeles to a 20-point lead entering the fourth.

Lance Stephenson had 23 points, eight rebounds and eight assists off the bench, and JaVale McGee led five starters in double figures with 20 points, his highest scoring game in five years.

"It's always nice to win, but we're on to Denver now," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "I told the guys, get whatever treatments they want. Let's get on the plane and get home so they can get some rest and get ready for a very good team coming to town."

The Nuggets have already won at Staples Center this season, posting a 107-98 win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 17. They followed that win by sweeping a three-game homestand, including a middle game victory against the Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA champions.

Denver center Nikola Jokic figures to provide a tough test for the Lakers, who are heading into the second of back-to-back games. He has reached double figures in points and rebounds in each of the past three games, including 35 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against the Suns on Saturday.

Nuggets guard Gary Harris has improved his scoring average each of the past four seasons and is averaging 21 points through the first four games. He told the Denver Post the Nuggets aren't paying much attention to who's on their schedule.

"We're worrying about ourselves, each and every game," he said. "We don't care who we're playing. If we go out there, we do the things we're supposed to do, I like our chances."

The Nuggets will be without one of their leading scorers from last season, however,

Will Barton had hip surgery after he was injured against Phoenix on Saturday and will be out until at least December.

The Lakers will be without starting small forward Brandon Ingram and starting point guard Rajon Rondo, both of whom were suspended for their roles in a fight Saturday night against the visiting Houston Rockets. Rondo is serving the final game of a three-game suspension and Ingram the third of a four-game suspension.

Lakers second-year shooting guard Josh Hart replaced Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the starting lineup on Wednesday night and that seemed to pay off. Hart scored 15 points to join the other four starters in double figures.

Updated October 25, 2018

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