Often accused of being a one-man show, the Denver Nuggets showed they might have the necessary support staff in order to deliver the franchise’s first NBA title.
The Nuggets rode a sharp-shooting fourth quarter from Jamal Murray to a 108-103 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, giving Denver a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, while two-time MVP Nikola Jokic was able to take a supporting role, even on a night when he had 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. It was Jokic’s fourth consecutive triple-double and seventh of this postseason alone.
Michael Porter Jr. put up 16 points and Bruce Brown added 12 for Denver, which sank seven fourth-quarter 3-pointers. Murray was 4 of 5 on 3-point tries in the fourth after he was 2 of 9 from long range in the first three periods.
“I was just locking in,” Murray said on the ESPN broadcast. “I missed some really good looks in the first half, but my team told me to keep shooting and I was getting the looks I wanted. We knew they would fall. The good thing is that I didn’t stop shooting. The team stayed on me.”
The Nuggets moved two victories away from their first appearance in the NBA Finals with the best-of-seven series shifting to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday. The Lakers are 6-0 at home in the playoffs so far.
“We did what we were supposed to do, we protected our home court,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Now we have to go to L.A. with a very businessman-like mindset.”
LeBron James amassed 22 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds and Anthony Davis added 18 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles.
Austin Reaves scored 22 points and Rui Hachimura added 21 for the Lakers, who were much improved after a slow start in Game 1. However, Los Angeles could not hold on to an 11-point lead in the third quarter on Thursday.
Trailing by 10 with four minutes left in the third, the Nuggets used a 10-0 run to tie the game at 74-74.
The Lakers rebounded to hold a 79-76 lead after three quarters before Murray came to life. His first 3-pointer of the final period gave Denver an 84-83 lead with 9:21 remaining. He added another with 7:11 left for an 87-83 lead.
After a Bruce Brown 3-pointer with 6:49 to go put Denver up 90-83, Murray again connected from deep twice more and the Nuggets led 99-87 with 4:57 remaining.
“We did a lot of good things out there tonight,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We had some holes that they were able to take advantage of. We did a great job defensively in the first half, a majority of the third and then kind of got out of rhythm offensively and they caught fire. That combination usually leads to your demise.”
Reaves got the Lakers within 101-99 on a 3-pointer with 1:07 left after James rolled his left ankle. James stayed in the game, with Reaves making another 3-pointer to get Los Angeles within 106-103 with 13.5 seconds left, but Murray’s two free throws — part of seven foul shots he sank in the final 50 seconds — sealed the victory.
After trailing by as many as 16 points in the first quarter of Game 1, the Lakers used an improved sense of urgency to lead by as many as six points in the opening period of Game 2.
Denver pulled even 27-27 at the end of the first quarter, but the Lakers led 53-48 at halftime behind 17 points from Hachimura, who was 7 of 7 from the field in the first two quarters.
–Field Level Media