LOS ANGELES — Suddenly, it’s all looking bleak.
The Lakers are one loss away from total elimination from the season as the Denver Nuggets ran away in the fourth quarter to the tune of 119-108. It was also their first home loss in these playoffs.
Los Angeles has been trying to keep up with the Nuggets but it looks like the gas light has lit up.
Jamal Murray’s fire carried over from the fourth quarter of Game 2 as he scored 11 points in a 24-10 start for Denver. Climbing uphill, especially for these Lakers, is just not ideal.
Murray stayed hot throughout the second quarter while the Lakers made their run (namely Austin Reaves, Anthony Davis, Rui Hachimura, and Lonnie Walker IV). A Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three untied the teams near the half and it was 58-55, Denver, entering the third quarter. But Murray did so much damage in those first 24 minutes.
Throughout the second half, the Lakers were able to get Nikola Jokic in foul trouble and shut out Murray for a bit. L.A. was able to tie the game but they couldn’t stop guys like Michael Porter Jr., Bruce Brown, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from making some shots (especially some tough ones). The Lakers didn’t exactly too much damage during the non-Jokic minutes but they entered the fourth trailing by just two, 84-82.
Rui Hachimura immediately gave the Lakers the lead with a three. Jokic did come back in the fourth and did work in the post. But Hachimura’s free throws gave the lead back to the Lakers, 94-93.
Just then, Jeff Green and Bruce Brown made back-to-back threes to break free of the Lakers’ lead. This was followed by a Murray three, a Brown tip, and a Jokic lay-up. A 13-0 run absolutely shattered the tired Lakers. They couldn’t get any closer than 7 points and the Nuggets shut the door with a couple more threes late.
Denver’s depth has shined throughout the playoffs. Michael Porter Jr., Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Jamal Murray have all hit big shots throughout this series. Aaron Gordon does a thankless job defending any of the Lakers. And we know Nikola Jokic’s credentials. They are one win away from their first-ever NBA Finals berth.
And the Lakers are on the brink. The fatigue seems to have caught up to this team. LeBron James has settled for quite a lot of shots in this series. Maybe Anthony Davis is really gassed. Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura have done well but haven’t been enough. Dennis Schröder just seems overmatched and D’Angelo Russell has embarrassingly been played out of the series.
Jamal Murray was fantastic again, scoring 30 of his 37 points in the first half. Nikola Jokic didn’t get a triple-double (this is his bar, which is ridiculous) but he still finished with 24-6-8. Former Laker KCP scored 17 points, Bruce Brown had 15, and Michael Porter Jr. went for 14-10-6.
Anthony Davis ended with a 28-point, 18-rebound performance that petered out. LeBron James got going late and had 23-7-12. Austin Reaves scored 23 points while Rui Hachimura scored 13 off the bench.
There’s not much else to say. No team in NBA history has come back from down 3-0 (although Denver nearly achieved it themselves in 1994). It just seems all inevitable.
All we can ask from these Lakers is to put up a fight as much as they can in Game 4. Take it one game at a time and see where it goes.
Of course, I don’t like their chances. But what are they supposed to do? Lay down and tell Denver to crush them?