LOS ANGELES – There comes a point in every playoff series when the two teams come to terms.
Understanding which team is better and which team will win the series.
to LakersBoth realizations crystallized in Game 4 of the previous series—against Memphis, when grizzly They choked on their own arrogance and ruined the opportunity to work overtime, and against them Golden Statewhen the champions couldn’t muster their usual moxie to win the road match they were there to take.
In the Western Conference Finals, there they were, throwing everything they could at Denver Nuggets in the third quarter. They had Nikola Jokic In unsightly trouble during a night out, Anthony Davis He was doing a job indoors, and LeBron James He finally ended his national nightmare by hitting back-to-back triples.
However, after a grueling effort, they were still 1 behind and the nuggets were as fresh and firm as black cats.
That Black Cat is now one game away from the NBA Finals next Win 119-108 in game three at the Crypto.com Arena on Saturday night to go up 3-0. In the history of the NBA, no team has ever come from such a deficit to win a series.
And the Nuggets seemed to know that, still showing respectable fear of the Lakers despite the control they showed in their first two games.
But fear wasn’t respect, and Jamaal Murray made sure he didn’t live in the “what you’ve done for me lately” world by knocking out a clean 30 on the Lakers in the first half, following up a fourth-place finish with 23 points. The quarter from Game 2 is shown.
He led the Nuggets with 37 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Jokic worked his way to 24 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds, with most of his damage coming in the fourth when they stopped a late charge.
They expected an early hit from the Lakers, who were undefeated at home in this playoff, but instead delivered what seemed like a knockout punch — and the Lakers had been playing from behind all evening.
“I think the way of thinking is you have to go out there and take it,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Up 3-0, what’s a natural tilt? Take a deep breath and relax—that’s when you’re getting yourself into trouble.”
Malone is a sharp fellow, and that edge has seeped into his players. The Nuggets have been the best team in the West since Christmas Day, and it’s funny how time flies when you care about the other teams in the conference.
The Warriors have always been respected as champions and the thought was that it would be difficult to field a healthy team in a seven-game series. the clippers Always great in theory until injuries hit. the Phoenix Suns She was baffled upon acquisition Kevin Durantis no longer restricted to Kyrie Irving. And the Lakers got a lot of attention after their seismic trade moves in the deadlines that got them to this point.
However, the Nuggets rose to the top of the standings, and they’re a healthy bunch that only needed each other to truly compete. Last year, they went 25-16 on the road—a 50-win pace.
“We’re No. 1 in the West for a reason,” Kentavius Caldwell Pope He said. “I thought from the jump we could win the championship. That was everyone’s mentality. We knew how we could play together and play together.”
So when Jokić was in bad trouble early on, Murray had no problem stepping into a lead role, with Michael Porter Jr Again, take advantage of the limited opportunities to be a legitimate threat while playing with full focus on the other side.
“I think the word you used is very appropriate: I saw poise tonight,” said Mallon. “An unpleasant problem. Nikola comes out. There was no panic. It was, “Okay, he’s out, that means someone else has to go up.” I think this is something our team has done over and over again. I know it’s a cliche, but the next guy mentality has really served us well over the years.”
The next man can only take teams so far, and the Stars need to finalize games in May. Jokic and Murray have the best two-player game in the league, and the Lakers have been at a loss trying to defend it.
Lakers coach Darvin Hamm is known for trying a little bit of everything, and he even put James on Murray again for stretching exercises. Given James’ age, it seemed like a last resort – or last rite.
In the Nuggets rally during some critical moments, it was apparently Jokic who called on them to run the offense down the right flank.
“We were up at the time, and we just wanted to not rush into anything,” Murray said. “Jokić did a good job of speaking English to the team in rallying around where everyone should be and, as I said, we did a good job of executing.”
The Lakers actually led 94-93 with seven minutes left, but didn’t feel like they had control of the game. The Nuggets have played every game of this game with proper professionalism, and it has shown that they view Game 3 as an opportunity.
Even Pope Caldwell, who isn’t the most vocal player, joined his teammate Christian Brown To mix defensive coverage resulted Austin Reeves tripartite. There is an understanding and maturity.
So before the Lakers could blink, that lead was gone. Jeff GreenAnd Bruce Brown And Murray tripled in the next 90 seconds and all the optimism for the game, the series, and the season overwhelmed them. The Nuggets could have lost a game, and they could have lost games the rest of the way. But what they’ve shown is that they won’t beat themselves – with 30 assists to just 5 turnovers and an increased focus on the defensive interest that many felt would kill them this spring.
Could James have done it and scored a victory? It may be an earlier iteration, but this version plays in spurts. He scored 23 with 12 assists and 7 rebounds. James shot 3 of 9 from 3-point range – an improvement from his recent numbers but perhaps too many attempts to please the Lakers.
The Nuggets kept him off the paint and prevented Davis from causing maximum damage. Aaron Gordon And Porter Jr. has done an ungrateful job for the series, along with the underrated Brown.
The Lakers are still looking for answers, while the Nuggets are showing they’re the better team — anytime, anywhere — and 48 minutes behind that elusive velvet rope to qualify for their first-ever NBA Finals.