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Nuggets hand Lakers 3rd straight loss as LeBron James sits for 1st time this season

The Los Angeles Lakers ruled out LeBron James for Sunday’s game against the Denver Nuggets with a thoracic muscle strain.

It turns out they needed him.

The Lakers struggled at home against their Western Conference rivals as the Nuggets cruised to a 128-104 victory, handing the Lakers their third straight loss after a 24-3 start to the season.

Sunday was the first game this season that James did not play.

As James sat, the Nuggets saw a balanced effort with six players scoring in double figures. Paul Millsap led Denver in scoring with 21 points as Nikola Jokic tallied 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

AD injury scare

For the Lakers, meanwhile, it was the Anthony Davis show. Davis tallied 32 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks as Kyle Kuzma was the only other Laker broach double figures, tallying 16 points off the bench.

Davis gave the Lakers an injury scare of his own after tweaking his right knee when he slipped on the court in the third quarter. He left the game before eventually returning to the court.

Reason for panic in L.A.?

While the Lakers are all of the sudden in a slide, it’s not time to signal alarm bells in Los Angeles. The first loss in the streak came against the Indiana Pacers as Davis sat with an injury. The second was a road loss to the best team in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks.

And Sunday’s loss arrived without James against one of the best teams in the West.

But things won’t get any easier on Christmas day with a showdown against the Los Angeles Clippers. If James can’t go for that one, a four-game losing streak would be likely

The streak does emphasize that the Lakers truly are a two-man show, which will obviously become problematic if injuries persist.

Vogel: James injured vs. Pacers

Head coach Frank Vogel said on Saturday after James missed practice that James suffered the back injury against the Indiana Pacers last week and played through it during Thursday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

LeBron will sit for the first time this season for Sunday's game against the Nuggets. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

LeBron on load management

James has thrust himself into the load management debate by vowing to play any game where he’s not injured, contrasting himself to Los Angeles Clippers rival Kawhi Leonard, who regularly sits while healthy.

“Why wouldn’t I play if I’m healthy?” James said last week.

Apparently James isn’t healthy.

With the Christmas matchup against the Clippers looming, it’s no surprise the Lakers played it safe as James deals with a back issue.

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