The Nuggets beat Jokic out of the night, putting the Lakers on the brink of elimination


Nikola Jokic Take a step back, but rest Denver Nuggets Has stepped up.

As a result, the Nuggets are one win away from going to their first NBA Finals.

With four players other than their two-time MVP making multiple assists, five teammates grabbing multiple rebounds, and four producing double-digit points, Denver now holds a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals series. Another win would earn the Denver franchise its first-ever sweep.

The silent crowd was shocked for most of the first half thanks to the base guard Jamal Murray, who picked up right where he left off to end the Nuggets’ Game 2 victory by 23 points in the fourth quarter. Murray scored 30 of his 37 points in the first half on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Jokic—for the first time in these playoffs—returned to passive postseason behavior that had previously had some questioning whether he actually deserved back-to-back MVP awards. He missed six of his first eight shots, caught no free throws and scored two rebounds in 22 minutes of the first half. Three errors in the first half were part of the problem, but he seemed content to let his support team do the heavy lifting.

Jokic finished with 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds, easily his lowest performance of the season. He picked it up in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 of his points in that time, but that was largely because the Lakers were so frenzied about stopping Murray, they were content to guard Jokic’s one-on-one tough 6-foot-8 forward. Roy Hashimura. It’s hard to consider him a pawn after missing three of his four free throws in the closing minutes.

Denver still came out of the Arena with a 119-108 win due to Michael Porter JrAnd Bruce Brown And Kentavius ​​Caldwell Pope Slack took over.

The most important stretch of the game came after Jokic committed his fourth foul with 7:24 left in the third quarter. Defense specialist Brown, who replaced Jokic, committed his fourth foul after less than 90 seconds. The Nuggets led 68-63 when Jokic went to the bench. They played the rest of the period without him and yet managed to take a two-point lead in the fourth quarter.

“I believe in my comrades,” said Jokic. “KCP stepped up big time, Bruce Brown had a great game, and Mike had a great game. I didn’t doubt my teammates even a bit.”

LeBron James They attributed the difference in the series as a whole to them.

“I think it was their supporting cast that hit those shots at the right time that gave them an edge,” he said.

Edge turned into an Avalanche 3-0.

Stats to know: The Lakers outscored the Nuggets in the paint, 52-38, but the Nuggets overcame that by winning a 3-point battle by an even larger margin, 51-30, with crisp 41% shooting (17-of-41).

Play the game: With 5:35 left, the Lakers forced Murray into a mid-range volley with the shot clock about to expire, but the Browns jumped out Austin Reeves And Anthony Davis for a tip-off, giving the Nuggets a 10-point lead and a clear punch to the Lakers’ collective gut.

Next for the nuggets: As long as they continue to take care of the ball and win the battle for quick break points, it’s hard to see where the Lakers could find an advantage. They shot 50% overall, had 30 assists and only five (!) turnovers. They’re the best shooting team, especially from long distances, and the Lakers’ ostentatious defense didn’t make much of an impact.

Next Lakers: Coach Darvin Hamm has to sort through his role players and see if he can find some who can influence the outcome. Jared Vanderbilt He started, assigned to Murray, and finished with two points and a plus-minus-10. Angelo Russell He also started and was 1-for-8 for three points.

Quote from the night: Murray questioned what it was like to be one win away from winning the series: “Five more to go”.

Rick Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine, and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with the onset of Parkinson’s disease, and “Yao: A Life in Two Worlds.” He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher”. Follow him on Twitter @Rick Bucher.

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