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Apr 24, 2024 8:13 pm

Lakers eager to solve Nuggets in Game 3

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The Los Angeles Lakers will at least return to the comfort of their home fans when they take on the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Thursday in Game 3 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series.

The Nuggets showed their championship pedigree at home in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead on Monday, when they overcame a 20-point, second-half deficit and an 11-point hole with less than 11 minutes remaining in regulation.

Denver pulled within 91-87 with 3:34 left, inched ever so close down the stretch and won it on a Jamal Murray fadeaway jumper over Anthony Davis at the buzzer. It gave the Nuggets their only lead of the second half as they walked away with a 101-99 victory.

“It speaks to a team that has tremendous confidence in themselves,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We’re the reigning champions. We may get down by 20 points, but we’re not going to roll over. That’s not who we are.

“… But we just did our job. We won two games at home. There’s a lot of basketball to be played.”

The Nuggets head into Game 3 with a 10-game winning streak against the Lakers (regular season and postseason combined) dating back to January 2023. That includes six playoff victories, highlighted by last season’s four-game sweep in the Western Conference finals.

Nikola Jokic brought his MVP-caliber play on Monday, amassing 27 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. Michael Porter Jr. scored 22 points to go along with nine rebounds, and Murray had six of his 20 points in the final 57.6 seconds.

Murray’s heroics came on a night when he was 9-of-24 from the floor and 0-of-5 from 3-point range. But he was 6-for-8 from the field in the decisive final quarter.

“I just lost balance and fell, and I just saw the ball over the rim,” Murray said about never seeing his game-winning shot go into the basket. “I think A.D. was in my way, or somebody was in my way. And I just heard everybody scream, and that’s how I knew it went in.”

Davis had 32 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, while LeBron James scored 26 points and dished out 12 assists. Los Angeles guard D’Angelo Russell emerged with 23 points while going 7-for-11 from 3-point range after scoring 13 points on 1-of-9 shooting from distance in Game 1.

James scored 12 points in the final quarter on Monday, but the rest of the team combined for just eight, including none from Davis on one shot attempt.

“We’ve shown that we’re more than capable,” Davis said. “We have stretches where we just don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor. And those are the ones that cost us.”

With the sting of the defeat fresh, James is already looking ahead and determined to take the series back to Denver for Game 5 with a different energy. The Lakers won their first six home playoff games last season before running into the Nuggets’ buzzsaw.

“Protect home. That’s where my mindset goes,” James said. “And obviously, the only game that matters now is Game 3 and how we can get better, how we can figure this team out. So, Game 3 is where my mindset is.”

–Field Level Media

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