LeBron James struggles, adjusting to an injured foot as the Lakers’ optimistic plan begins to falter


Denver – Once upon a time LeBron James He was the Swiss army knife of the playoff, putting cold water on your best player while controlling him on the other end.

We saw it against Derek rose Over a decade ago, and now Rose’s polar opposite stands up to James for extended periods of time, sapping all the energy James had let go while trying to engineer the upset.

James nor the rest Lakers It can stop charging Denver Nuggets In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, w Jamal Murray Takes center stage in the fourth quarter on the way to 108-103 win in Ball Arena.

James’ portrayal in the series has left him out, making clear the fact that he’s 38 and no longer running with an endless tank of energy. Murray was unfazed by any defense the Lakers threw into the fourth net, as he rebounded from a slow start to score 23 of his game-high 37 points.

Babylon Murray? Let’s call him Mae Murray now.

Conversely, James struggled.

He missed all six of his three-point attempts, and while he was impressively competitive Nikola Jokicneither he nor Anthony Davis It appeared he had enough left in the tank to fend off the Nuggets in the fourth.

He missed one of those forever detached guys in the first half, much to the delight of the Ball Arena crowd. And several times when the Lakers seemingly had the Nuggets on the ropes, leading by 11 early in the third quarter, they couldn’t quite put them away.

James described the rare incident as “terrible”.

“Obviously it’s bad that that ball went out of my hand that way, whatever the case may be, I might have hit my knee or something, but I turned myself without forcing,” said James. “This plays momentum.”

And now the Lakers are on the ropes, losing two straight games for the first time in over two months and not being able to steal a road game unlike their first two.

“They’re just like us, undefeated in their home country. We knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Lakers coach Darvin Hamm. “Tough, tough at that. And we said it before we even played one game, we have to buckle up and buckle up and buckle up because we planned for this to be a long series.”

James stepped on the Nuggets’ forward foot Aaron GordonIt may have been a sprained injured foot that caused him to miss weeks during the regular season. Although he confirmed all that he will play Saturday in Game 3, it reveals the fragility of this overly optimistic plan for the Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James on the field after injuring his leg during the second half of Game 2 in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver on May 18, 2023. (Photos)
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James on the court after injuring his leg during the second half of Game 2 in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver on May 18, 2023. (Robert Gautier/Getty Images) Los Angeles times via Getty Images)

Stars must be stars, and the Nuggets’ stars have risen again while the Lakers’ mainstays just couldn’t keep up. This Lakers thing only works if stars are stars – and on a generational level, too. We take Roy Hashimura Sterling’s performance (who made his first eight attempts) is exaggerated if James and Davies play to their standards, when in fact he was delaying the inevitable Thursday.

Both Lakers duos played 40 minutes again, and with games coming up every day, including travel between the two cities, you’re wondering if fatigue will play a factor — if it really isn’t.

Davis hasn’t missed a game in two months – his last game was on March 15th from inactivity – the longest he’s played outside of the 2020 Orlando bubble as everyone gets four months off before play resumes.

“I mean, if you weren’t tired in the postseason — I mean, everybody’s tired,” James said.

Davis earned his first stinky playoff game in a long time, perhaps somewhat predictably after his 40-point explosion in Game 1.

He scored 18 with 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, but didn’t have nearly the impact on the game one would expect—although the Nuggets seemed to hit it all in the fourth, going on a streak of five consecutive 3-pointers. Throws turned the Laker’s two-point lead into the Nuggets’ 12-point lead in the space of four minutes.

Joki had the luxury of being like a decoy during that time, with Murray, Bruce Brown And Michael Porter Jr They take turns to the adrenaline-fueled jumpers that have Brown tweeting from the Lakers bench and Murray turning to ESPN announcer Mike Breen to mimic his famous “Bang!” Connection after his last hat-trick at the 4:57 mark.

The two-time MVP put together another triple-double with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists while still giving up space to Murray, who continues to flame the Laker guards. Porter Jr. made four triples to score 16, and although he didn’t explode this series, the Lakers have to warn that he will in the next two games.

The Lakers are not without confidence or options here. Austin Reeves Once again, there are teams ready to back up the Brinks Truck in July with another strong showing, and in theory, both D’Angelo Russell and Dennis Schröder are slated to field rebound performances, notably coming home in two games.

But Jokic’s question is something the Lakers haven’t proven ready to deal with yet. Hamm was a member in 2004 Detroit Pistons The team that upset the Lakers in the NBA Finals, with their strategy for late prime finisher Shaquille O’Neal being to let him have his power and shut out everyone else.

“Yes, we have an announcement,” Hamm said before the game, “but if you can call Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace and Elden Campbell, tell them I have a one-day or series-long contract for them.” “This team, we had guys – no one could stop Shaq one-on-one, but we had some really formidable bodies to run to.”

Even those generational advocates would shake their heads at Jokic’s mastery.

Put Davis on it, and while Davis can win his share of games, it limits his ability as a defender for the team.

Put James on it for long periods of time, and you’ll take the chance that there isn’t enough James in the tank to shut it down. James missed a three-pointer on everything in the final minute of Game 1, and resorted to taking a big in Game 2.

In the playoffs, James is 1-for-20 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, and in the playoffs, he shoots 23.3% from there.

“He was an extrovert, they play with him. He’s a very capable three-point shooter, he just let it fly,” Hamm said. “Again, as I always say, I love and live in the paint. That allows some of these 3-point attempts to be more open and more rhythmic.”

It’s the Nuggets now on a beat, and although Nuggets coach Michael Malone’s “disrespect card” can sound like a cheap gimmick, they’re using it as fuel to get closer and closer to the Finals.


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