One of the most important games of both the Lakers and the Nuggets postseason has to be Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers look to take a 3-0 lead on the Nuggets, a lead that hasn’t been overturned in NBA history, while the Nuggets look to make this a closer series by making it a 2-1 series. Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of a buzzer beating three pointer in Game 2 that gifted LA a 2-0 series lead. Davis is averaging 34 points per game in this Nuggets series, so the big man is going to be looked at again to have a monster game. These Nuggets have proven time and time again that they are gritty and tough, so if there was a team to avoid going down 3-0 in a series, it would be the Nuggets.
The first quarter kicked off with both teams playing at a leveled pace as the halfway mark of the first quarter was met with a slim 14-12 Lakers advantage.LeBron James had a quick 6 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists as he was finding his luck in the paint early on. Anthony Davis didn’t have the greatest start as he had 3 points on 1-4 shooting with one turnover. Overall, the first quarter was messy from both teams as neither team built any sort of rhythm collectively. Nikola Jokic was cooking as he notched 11 first quarter points en route to Denver holding a 29-27 lead at the end of the first 12 minutes.
The Nuggets were far more aggressive to start the second quarter than the Lakers as a series of buckets from Michael Porter Jr propelled the Nuggets to a quick 7-0 run as Frank Vogel was forced to take a timeout with just over one minute played in the quarter. The scoreline jumped to 36-27 as the Lakers were caught sleeping on both ends of the court. That run extended to 17-2 thanks to back-to-back buckets from Monte Morris and Jamal Murray who helped extend Denver’s lead while Nikola Jokic was on the bench. It was quite uncharacteristic of the Lakers to register just 2 points in the first three minutes of any quarter, so the Lakers would need to respond fast to this sucker punch. Anthony Davis started to find his own rhythm as he grabbed 16 points in 15 minutes of play, but the Lakers still found themselves in a 55-41 hole with around three and a half minutes remaining in the first half. The Lakers did use a late push tha saw Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markeiff Morris hit shots from downtown to help alleviate the deficit and send both teams to the locker rooms with a 63-53 scoreline favoring Denver. Denver saw their lead grow to as much as 18 points but the Lakers resilience and playmaking helped them keep the game closer with 24 minutes left in the game.
The Lakers were given an early third quarter boost from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as he scored five points to cut the Denver lead down to five points. Denver were going to make this a much tougher game for the Lakers than they expected as an offensive burst from guys like Jerami Grant to get their lead back to 12 with eight and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter. All of a sudden, Jerami Grant became the games leading scorer thus far with 17 points on 5-7 shooting. The Nuggets really needed the help from guys like Grant and Murray as they were able to re-establish the game’s largest lead at the end of the third quarter with a 93-75 scoreline. Grant notched his playoff career high in points with 21 as the Lakers resorted back to a bad tendency of making non-star players look like stars against their defense. The Lakers would need a Nuggets-esque comeback in the fourth quarter in order for them to salvage anything from the contest.
The Lakers were showing a lot of fight at the start of the fourth quarter as Denver were caught napping on the court. Anthony Davis converted three free throws after getting fouled on a three-point attempt as this possession marked the start of the Laker run. Lebron James tacked on a three as well while Kuzma converted under the rim during the next possession. With around eight and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Lakers found themselves back in the contest as Denver’s lead was cut down to 99-87. Out of the timeout, the Lakers switched to a zone defense and used their defensive stops to continue propelling their offense as the seven and a half minute mark saw LA cut the lead to eight points. Rajon Rondo was pivotal for the Lakers’ continued run as he registered three steals in four minutes as the halfway mark of the quarter saw the Denver lead shrink to 99-96. The game had resorted to utter chaos as the Lakers were giving the Denver Nuggets a taste of their own medicine with such a ferocious comeback. Jamal Murray was superb down the stretch with 28 points as he helped the Nuggets steal Game 3 and extend the Western Conference Finals with a 114-106 victory. Both teams square off for Game 4 on Thursday, September 24th at 6pm PST.
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