Every time the Lakers punched a rampage, the Nuggets seemed to come back with a hammer.
Through game three of the Western Conference Finals series, where Denver took a 3–0 lead after a 119–108 win, Los Angeles found several ways to defend against the Nuggets’ rolling offense.
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic historically dominated Game 1, and the Lakers tried to compete defensively in the next contest with Rui Hachimura. Then, after Jokic cooled off a bit after halftime in Game 2, guard Jamal Murray (5-for-17 in the third quarter) scored 23 points in the final period to give the Nuggets a 2-0 lead. His hot streak continued in the first half of Game 3, when he scored 30 points, but things dried up for him in the third quarter when Lakers floorer Dennis Schroder scored a point that took him full court. And the situation looked even more precarious for the Nuggets when Jokic was about to be busted for an early fourth down foul.
Although Murray’s offensive play stalled (despite keeping the game scoreless on third down after a big first half) and Jokic missing less than five minutes in the first half, Denver was able to hold his serve and take the lead. He managed to maintain his lead on the road. Best scored two stars. (Michael Porter Jr., Bruce Brown and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope all scored multiple goals in the final seven minutes of that third quarter.)
And, if that wasn’t impressive enough, there was also a crucial quarter where the Nuggets hit the gas pedal as they came back in full force. The proud Lakers defense put up a lot of thumbs blocking embankments on Saturday. After isolating Murray, he had to worry about Brown’s ball handling and play.
With Los Angeles leading 94–93 with just over seven minutes remaining, Brown threw a pass to 36-year-old Jeff Green that put him ahead by 3 points. On the next possession, the Browns drilled their three off a beautiful feed from Porter. Murray then scored a touchdown on the next play. Brown and Jokic each had layups of their own to end the game 13–0, effectively calming the already nervous and once optimistic crowd. Those Los Angeles fans, like the rest of us, saw the Nuggets taking what was left of the 2022-23 Lakers’ soul.
The Lakers definitely had at least one self-injury problem in Game 3, too. Coach Darwin Hamm went 1-for-8 with him for too long (20 minutes) in front of plus-minus data that starting guard D’Angelo Russell should be on the bench. shooting performance. (He didn’t defend Murray well enough, especially as a 30-point hitter in the first half.) He wasn’t effective enough in forcing Denver’s mistakes, handing 30 Nuggets assists to six turnovers. But despite Austin Reeves averaging 23 points per game in this series and Hachimura continuing to impress this season, the Lakers are easily unmatched. They may fix one problem temporarily, but in doing so create another. It’s too difficult for Anthony Davis or LeBron James to handle.
Late February and early March, it seems like an absolute age at this point, but with the Nuggets likely making it to the NBA Finals, a result like this might not be too surprising. Jokic looked like he had a good shot at earning his third MVP award in a row, and the Nuggets began chaos below him in the standings. Ja Morant was to be suspended from Memphis, and fans and analysts wondered whether the young Kings with no playoff experience could mount a challenge. The Clippers were injured, the Suns and Lakers lacked cohesion, and the defending champion Warriors could not win on the road for some reason.
The Nuggets then struggled, losing four straight games (including one West’s worst record to the Spurs), looking lethargic on defense during the home stretch of the season. Was it a cause for concern? (Some teams will tell you there never was, and Denver (with a healthy Murray and Potter, a dominant Jokic and a solid supporting cast) has always been a favorite.) The team’s pieces fit from a cutting, shooting and defensive standpoint. . I have experience. Drama happens. The club boasts of a mix of cross-generational skills and talent brought by 28-year-old Jokic. And true faith appears. It might be time for the nuggets. It seems to be becoming more and more so with each passing day, based on how long they’ve held the #1 spot in the West all season and how perfect they’ve looked during this playoff run.
A winning team doesn’t have killer instincts in late February or early March. we all sit back and watch eastern con
While playing the Finals in awe, many wonder how the Celtics can play without a hopeless feeling. The Nuggets, on the other hand, not only seem to sense the moment, but their superstars and superb, well-rounded supporting cast help capture it.