LOS ANGELES — The Lakers are in quite a hole right now.
There’s no mistaking it. People can say that the other team only defended home court. But a 2-0 deficit is big no matter what. No room for error at home for the Lakers. Because once the Lakers lose one at home, it’s nearly curtains.
Nearly. You know what LeBron James has done before.
But the Lakers shouldn’t even dare get down 3-1. Instead, they should take it one game at a time. And they’re confident enough to take it to the Nuggets. After all, the first two games were close.
However, just when they thought they figured it out, a fire happened in the fourth quarter. That fire was named Jamal Murray. The Lakers and Nuggets were grinding it out until Murray got loose to the tune of 23 fourth quarter points. L.A. was still in it late because of their signature resilience. In the end, though, they failed to overtake the Nuggets and are down in said 2-0 hole.
Can Murray do it again? Well, if he gets left open, he will. But he also admittedly made some tough shots. But now the Lakers have to also game plan for him. Deny him the ball if they must.
I still like their defensive game plan of giving Nikola Jokic different looks. I’m on the camp of letting him get his and not let the supporting cast get hot. Michael Porter, Jr. has been huge for the Nuggets this series. Bruce Brown has been giving the Lakers trouble all year. If they can limit Murray, MPJ, and Brown, I like the Lakers’ chances more.
I think the Lakers made a mistake of going away from the hot hand. Anthony Davis and LeBron James really shut their rhythm down early in the fourth quarter by shooting threes. Bron went 0 for 6 from distance. Rui Hachimura had 17 points in the first half and looked unstoppable but he only scored four points after halftime. Let Rui throw fireballs all game. Actually, if it was somebody like D’Angelo Russell that had the hot hand, they should keep feeding him. Speaking of D’Angelo, I hope he gets it going in this game. Whenever he gets hot, the Lakers do so much better.
And that weird pattern of Anthony Davis having a great offensive night every other game continues. He had 40 in Game 1 but only had 18 in Game 2. Once again, he said that he takes the same shots but he’s missing them. I disagree on that; he wasn’t attacking the rim as much. Him shooting three-pointers in the fourth quarter is enough evidence on that. LeBron James also settled quite a bit late in both games. It was weird to see someone else handle late-game situations in early playoff contests for L.A. but that might be the better decision in these coming few games.
So I think the Lakers should continue having good starts (playing from behind is not a great thing for this team), keep giving Jokic different looks even if he gets his, and try to shut down their perimeter players (which they did a good job of in the first three quarters). Do all of that and it’s 2-1 after Saturday night.