(News4usonline) — Up to this point, the Los Angeles Lakers have no answers on how to slow down or stop Jamal Murray or Nikola Jokic. If they fail defensively to lock up the two Denver Nuggets stars, the Lakers will be watching the NBA Finals from home.
Jokic dropped 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists in a 132–126 Game 1 Western Conference Finals win against the Lakers. With Jokic having a ho-hum Game 2 with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists in the Nuggets’ 108–103 Game 2 victory, it was Murray who proved to be unstoppable.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 19, 2023
Erupting for 23 points in the fourth quarter, Murray left his mark on the game with 37 points and 10 rebounds. Nuggets: 2. Lakers: 0.
“He made shots,” Lakers forward LeBron James said about Murray after Game 2. “He made shots at the end of the clock when we guarded for 24 seconds, and he made two big-time shots, one over AD and one over myself.
“Had his mid-range game going. But he had his three-point shot going in the fourth. It’s no surprise to anybody, he’s done it before. Hate to be on the other side of it but I don’t feel like we had many breakdowns when he was doing what he was doing. He made shots and sometimes it’s a make-or-miss league.”
The Lakers made a mockery of an immature and less-than-stacked Memphis Grizzlies team in the first round of the NBA playoffs, knocking the №2 seed in the Western Conference out of postseason play in six games.
AnD one pic.twitter.com/TDx86APA66
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 19, 2023
The reigning NBA champs-the Golden State Warriors were next. With a superior height advantage, the Lakers dominated the paint and controlled the boards on their way to winning the second-round series against Steph Curry and the Warriors, 4–2.
It also helped that Curry and the Warriors were having a tough time knocking down shots from three-point range. The Lakers, who started the season with a 2–10 record, suddenly found themselves four games away from playing in the NBA Finals.
Two games into their Western Conference Finals series against the top-seeded Nuggets, the Lakers find themselves in a hole, a deficit that they have not encountered in the postseason. Unlike their first two playoff series against the Grizzlies and Warriors, the Lakers are the ones facing a must-win situation.
“They held serve on their home floor, and the more higher the levels you get to, you’re going to face much, much tougher teams,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said. “No disrespect to Memphis or Golden State, but this team has been at the top of the food chain for a reason, not just this year but the last few years. So, we definitely got our work cut out for us but we’re going to get better from this, as we always do, and we’ll bounce back on our home floor.”
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) looks to pass the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the team’s second-round playoff series. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline on May 8, 2023.
Against Memphis and Golden State, the Lakers jumped these two opponents by winning the first game of those two respective series. By winning those two games at the start of the two series, the Lakers put the pressure on Golden State and Memphis.
Neither team was able to recover from the early deficit as the Lakers advanced through each round. In the first two games, Denver let the Lakers know they’re not having any of that nonsense in the best-of-seven series.
The Lakers are having defensive hiccups matching up against Jokic and Murray. They don’t have a lot of time trying to figure it out, even if James (40 minutes in Game 2) and Anthony Davis (41 minutes) are racking up heavy minutes of playing time. Murray, who played 43 minutes in Game 2, said fatigue is setting in with all the players.
“We all were tired, but we gutted it out,” Murray said. “We know they’re tired, as well. We play in Denver a lot, and they don’t as much. So, we know down the stretch even if we’re tired, they’ll be just as tired or even more.”
Lead Image: Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) shoots under Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals series, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)