So far the Denver Nuggets have all the answers they need for the Los Angeles Lakers, and now they’re one game away from sweeping.
With a 37-point lead over Jamal Murray, the Nuggets won Game 3 119-108 on Saturday to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. If the Nuggets win Game 4 in Los Angeles on Monday, they will face the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics for the first title in franchise history.
No team has ever come back from losing 3-0 in an NBA playoff series.
It wasn’t an easy win for Denver, who played a chip on their shoulder in every series against an NBA marquee team.
MVP runner-up Nikola Jokic may have had his quietest game of the postseason (which is saying something considering he still has 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds) and dealt with trouble. Error most of the game. The Lakers once again enjoyed free-throw variation, this time outscoring the Nuggets 29-19. LeBron James (23 points, 12 assists) and Anthony Davis (28 points, 18 rebounds) looked their intimidating selves, or at least a step away from him.
The Nuggets won by avoiding the fouls the Lakers usually impose, committing only five turnovers, and power plays from nearly every member of their rotation, most notably Bruce Brown and Kentavious Caldwell Pope, who combined for 32 points.
A great half from the Nuggets’ all-star side didn’t hurt either, and another horrible game from D’Angelo Russell (three points on 1-of-8 shooting) didn’t hurt either.
Jamal Murray scored 30 points in the first half
The first half was Murray’s show, when the Nuggets’ standout guard followed up an unreal Game 2 performance with 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting in the first two quarters. for every NBA numbersHowever, Murray had 53 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and the first half of Game 3, the most by a player in a three-quarter span in the playoffs since 1988.
A blazing fire Murray put the Nuggets ahead by as much as 14 points in the first quarter, but he never got away from the Lakers. Thanks to Jokic’s quiet half (five points on 2-of-8 shooting), free-throw disparity (18 attempts on seven Nuggets) and a stellar start from Anthony Davis, the Lakers trailed only 58-55 at the half.
The second half was different in many ways. For starters, Murray completely disappeared, and was held scoreless until the middle of the fourth quarter. Jokic got up a bit, as did James, who made his first two pitches of the series on back-to-back plays.
The Nuggets led for most of the second half, finally starting to pull away midway through the fourth quarter with a 13-0 lead.
At that point, Jokic had fully come to life, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter. Laker fans have been storming out of the Crypto.com Arena for the last two minutes, and you have to wonder if they’ll be back on Monday.
“Award-winning social media nerd. Food specialist. Amateur entrepreneur. Pop culture maven. Subtly charming explorer.”