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Apr 26, 2024 6:02 pm

Nuggets on verge of sweeping Lakers for second straight season

Nikola Jokic

The Denver Nuggets can wipe away one more step on their way to potential back-to-back championships when they stay on the road to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.

The Nuggets took a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series against the Lakers by rallying once again for a 112-105 victory Thursday. Denver trailed at halftime for the third consecutive game in the series and put its finishing kick on display again.

Nikola Jokic had 24 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Nuggets, but this is far from a one-man show. Aaron Gordon scored 29 points with 15 rebounds of his own. Jamal Murray scored 22 points and Michael Porter Jr. added 20 points with 10 rebounds.

Denver trailed 53-49 at halftime before grabbing a double-digit lead just over seven minutes into the third quarter. The Nuggets led by as many as 15 points with 3:02 remaining and thwarted a late Lakers rally by making six free throws in the final 1:06.

In Game 1, the Nuggets trailed by three points at halftime and won by 11. In Game 2, it was a 15-point deficit at the half leading to a two-point victory.

“Well, I guess there goes the pregame speech about winning the first quarter and being up at halftime,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said in jest. “Let’s continue to let them outplay us in the first half and settle into the game.”

The Nuggets continued their domination of the Lakers, winning their 11th consecutive game against their Western Conference rivals. Making that even more impressive is that a win Saturday would give Denver consecutive playoff sweeps over Los Angeles.

“To be honest, I think every game is tougher and tougher,” Jokic said. “… I think it’s really hard to play against the same team over and over again. You kind of get bored with the style of the play or whatever. So you just need to trust what we are doing and don’t get bored with success. Because it can (go) wrong really quick.”

History says the Lakers can make their offseason plans now. No team has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit in a best-of seven NBA playoff series in 151 attempts.

But stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t so much interested in making history as they are in limiting the scope of their focus for the road ahead.

“It’s one game at a time, at this point,” James said. “And you lose, you go home. So we’re gonna come in with the mindset of, ‘Let’s get one.’ Force a Game 5 and then we go from there.

“So as long as you still have life, then you always have belief. You play until the wheels fall off.”

Davis scored 33 points with 15 rebounds in Game 3, while James had 26 points and nine assists. Austin Reaves added 22 points. But D’Angelo Russell didn’t score a single point in 24 minutes, going 0 of 7 from the floor and 0 of 6 from 3-point range.

“It’s unfortunate man,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of Russell. “He had some good looks that he just didn’t knock down. It’s as simple as that. (It was) similar to Game 1. He was able to bounce back in Game 2 and I expect him to bounce back in Game 4.”

–Field Level Media

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