For the third consecutive series in the NBA playoffs, the Denver Nuggets are down 3-1 and they will try to keep their season alive when they face the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Saturday near Orlando.
The Lakers put the Nuggets on the brink of elimination in a 114-108 victory on Thursday. Anthony Davis scored 34 points, while LeBron James had 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers, who can advance to their first NBA finals in 10 years.
The last time the Lakers reached the title game, Kobe Bryant led them to the championship with a Game 7 win over the Boston Celtics in 2010.
Against the Nuggets, Davis said the Lakers’ ability to execute on both ends of the floor was the difference.
“We played great down the stretch; we played great overall,” Davis said. “There’s still some things we’ve got to fix if we want to put this thing away.”
Davis played through an ankle injury in the second half. He believes treatment will allow him to be ready for Saturday.
“I’m good enough to play,” Davis said. “I rolled it pretty bad but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 13 points and Dwight Howard, who started for the first time in this postseason, contributed 12 points and 11 boards, six of those on the offensive end for Los Angeles. Rajon Rondo also delivered a solid outing with 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds, including one late that extended a Lakers’ possession.
Jamal Murray had 32 points and eight assists for the Nuggets, who rallied from 3-1 deficits in their previous series wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. Murray converted 12 of 20 shots from the floor and hit several acrobatic shots to keep the Nuggets close.
Jerami Grant added 17 points, Nikola Jokic, who was limited by foul trouble, collected 16 points and seven rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. had 13 points and eight boards. Monte Morris chipped in 12 points.
The Nuggets rallied from double-digit deficits throughout the contest but failed to convert offensively when it mattered most. Morris’ floater with 3:28 left cut the Lakers’ lead to 105-101 before Denver failed to make another field goal.
Second-chance points also were a factor with he Lakers dictating the category 25-6.
“It was a huge number and it was like that the whole night,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, Dwight Howard had six (offensive rebounds); nobody touched him at all in the first quarter. He did whatever he wanted.”
Said Murray, “We had so many breakdowns throughout the game. We just got to be better. We can’t give them that many second-chance points while we’re having breakdowns. We just got to be better ourselves to give ourselves a chance despite how bad we played.”
The Lakers attempted 35 foul shots, hitting 28 of them, to 20 of 23 for the Nuggets.
“I think late in the game, I thought Jamal Murray attacked the basket a few times where there appeared to be contact,” Malone said. “So we’ll watch the film and we’ll send our clips in and reach out to the NBA and kind of make our points noted.”
–Field Level Media