Murray, Nuggets end Lakers’ season

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets eliminated the Lakers in the playoffs for the second straight season, this time in the first round in five games.

Jamal Murray did it again.

Murray hit a jump shot from the foul line with 3.6 seconds left, ending what felt like a heavyweight slugfest between the champion and challenger and lifting the Denver Nuggets to a 108-106 victory over. the Lakers.

The Nuggets won the best-of-seven series, 4-1, and eliminated the Lakers at Denver’s Ball Arena. It was Murray’s second game-winning shot of the series.

Neither team led by double digits and could pull away from the other. But with Denver taking advantage of the Lakers not having any timeouts left in the last three minutes, the Nuggets went to a familiar face to close it out.

Murray was questionable before the game because of a calf strain. But he was given the green light to play and, boy, did that light shine bright. Murray finished with 32 points to lead all scorers and none was more important than his last basket.

The two stars for Los Angeles, LeBron James (30 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists) and Anthony Davis (17 points, 15 rebounds), led a 12-0 run in the second quarter but the Nuggets kept up enough to not let it get out of hand. Denver had a 14-2 surge in the third quarter, where they have been fantastic against Los Angeles (averaged +7.6 points in the third against the Lakers in the series). But neither team broke free and we got a classic exchange between these two teams.

The Lakers had double-digit leads in the first four games and Games 1-3 ended up as losses — despite James and Davis playing at the peak of their powers (even when Davis hurt his shoulder Monday night). They just didn’t get consistent support from their role players.

Austin Reaves was their second-leading scorer for LA with 19 points. Rui Hachimura added 15 while D’Angelo Russell scored even though he went 2 for 10 on 3-pointers.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with an eye-popping 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists. Michael Porter Jr. shot the lights out again with 26 points while Aaron Gordon grabbed 13 rebounds and chipped in seven points.

With the Lakers season over, all eyes will now be their summertime agenda.

Is this the end of LeBron James’ tenure in Los Angeles? Will the Lakers try to trade for another star? What will be the fate of guys like Hachimura, Russell or Reaves? And what about head coach Darvin Ham?

It’s going to be a long offseason for these Lakers.