The nostalgia of the matchup is faded and pretty much gone for Nuggets coach Brian Shaw. Facing the Lakers, a team he played and coached for, is reaching old-hat status. It has been three years. The faces have changed so much, he can name the handful he shared time with when he toiled there.

"In terms of the players; it's just Kobe (Bryant), Jordan Farmar, and (Pau) Gasol are guys that I coached," Shaw said. "There isn't much of a connection in terms of that."

There is an intense desire to win, though, and this is where Shaw's team — featuring a breakout performance from center Timofey Mozgov — picked him up Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets played their most complete game of the season and beat the Lakers 111-99.

"We had a couple of lapses on defense, but we're getting better," Shaw said. "We held them to under 40 percent shooting from the field, which you'll take any night, especially (against) a (Lakers coach) Mike D'Antoni team that can really get up and down the floor and score points."

It was the Nuggets' third win in four games and moved them to within one game of .500.

"I want to win every game regardless of who it is, and I want to win even more when it's a team that I either played for or coached," Shaw said.

The skeptics, who brushed off the Nuggets' improvement in a win over Utah on Monday because it was against a winless team, got a look at the next step up in competition. The Lakers aren't worldbeaters; they won't even be Pacific Division beaters. But they did represent a better benchmark for evaluating the Nuggets' current state of affairs.

And that current state is good.

The last four games have seen the Nuggets find the century mark every time. Their shooting percentages are up. The defensive effort, in the last two games, has been much closer to what Shaw and the staff are looking for.

It's probably not a coincidence the offense clicked with Wilson Chandler returning to the lineup. In his season debut, he had 12 points, five rebounds and two steals. He played 21 minutes in returning from a hamstring strain that sidelined him for every preseason and regular-season game until Wednesday.