LOS ANGELES (Compton Bulletin) — Defense has one of the things the Los Angeles Lakers have been able to hang their hats on going into the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. That’s been tossed to the wind by the Nuggets in this best-of-seven series.
The Lakers watched Denver guard Jamal Murray go off again on one of his scoring barrages. After busting the Lakers’ chops with 37 points in Game 2, lit Los Angeles up for another 37 points in Game 3.
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)
This time around, Murray hit the Lakers with 30 points in the first half to lead Denver to a 119–108 win.
“He got off scorching,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “I felt like we were doing a pretty decent job on everyone else. He’s one of those players, man, once he starts to see them go in, it’s just he catches fire, and he rolls them off pretty quickly, which he did in that first half. Basically carried them offensively through that half.”
Murray scored 17 points in the first quarter and nearly matched what the Lakers put up on the scoreboard in the period as Denver raced out to a 32–20 advantage. Denver coach Mike Malone talked about the importance of his team getting off to a fast start.
“You have to give Jamal Murray a lot of credit in that regard,” Malone said. “I thought Jamal, what did he have in the first quarter? I know he had 30 at halftime. 17 in the first quarter. Shooting into a big basket, and his teammates were finding him.
“That’s one thing I love about our team as well is that there is no sensitivity. If a guy has got it going, we’re going to ride that guy, knowing at some other point in the game we are going to need somebody else to step up and make a play. I thought tonight was a perfect example of that. It was Jamal early, it was Jamal and Nikola late and a lot of guys in between that stepped up.”
The Nuggets are not off to a 3–0 advantage in this series by accident. Besides their obvious scoring talents, the Nuggets can play defense, too. In Game 3, Denver only allowed the Lakers to score 30 points or more in just one quarter. The Nuggets outscored the Lakers 35–26 in the final period to seal their third win of the series.
Murray said the way the Nuggets have been playing has “been good.”
“I think we’ve just been on a string,” Murray said. “We’re on the same page with what we’re doing, even when we mix it up in timeouts and adjustments game to game. Everybody is just on the same page. When we mess up, we don’t get too down. I think that’s the biggest thing. Just next possession and get back to it. We can’t hang our head in the Playoffs, and we’re doing a good job of just trucking along and getting back on the same page like I said.”
Jamal Murray’s 53 points over the last three quarters is the most points over a three-quarter stretch since the 1998 Playoffs. pic.twitter.com/Sgbz9hi3vq
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 21, 2023
The Nuggets came into the Western Conference Finals as the top seed. The Lakers are the №7 seed. Denver is simply playing the Lakers like they are the best team in the Western Conference.
The Nuggets finished the regular season as the best team in the Western Conference. The postseason thus far has been nothing but validation of the success that the Nuggets have enjoyed.
Denver breezed by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round and whisked past the Phoenix Suns in the second round. Getting to the NBA Finals required the Nuggets to go through the Lakers, a team that poked their way past the Memphis Grizzlies, the №2 team in the conference, and last season’s champion Golden State Warriors.
Right now, the Nuggets are hitting the Lakers right square in the mouth. It’s time for the Lakers to respond if they want to keep their season alive.
“I mean, just got to get one,” Lakers forward LeBron James said. “Just one at a time. Just focus on Game 4, and you know, that’s all you can really think about. I mean, obviously, this game is over and done with. We had some opportunities, but we didn’t come through. So just get ready for Monday and just got to get one. It’s a one-game series for us. Every game counts, obviously.”
This article appears courtesy of the Compton Bulletin