The Nuggets weathered every setback and calmly, methodically took control with a poise worthy of champions.
With one more victory, they’ll finally get the chance to play for their first rings.
Murray scored 37 points, Jokic added 24 points and eight assists and the Nuggets rolled to a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals with a 119-108 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday (PH time), May 21, 2023.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half against his former team for the top-seeded Nuggets, who have never been this close to the NBA Finals in 47 years in the league. Denver is making its fifth straight playoff appearance, and the ultimate stage is now just one win away.”
“I learn a lot about this team every time we play,” Caldwell-Pope said.
“We have that dog mentality where no matter if we’re up, down, we’re going to continue to fight and play our game, and do it at a high level. We’re going to continue to do that for the rest of these games.”
Denver blew a 14-point lead in Game 3, but made a decisive 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to snap the Lakers’ nine-game home winning streak since March 26, including seven straight victories since the regular season ended. The Nuggets excelled down the stretch with Murray and Jokic repeatedly running a two-man pick-and-roll game suggested by “Coach Jokic,” according to coach Michael Malone.
“This group is capable of doing great things, and they believe,” Malone said. “Belief is a very powerful thing.”
No team has rallied from a 3-0 playoff series deficit in NBA history. Game 4 is Monday night in Los Angeles.
“I can’t speak for the guys right now because I don’t know what’s going through all their minds, but I still (believe),” said LeBron James, who had 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. “So it’s time to go right back home and start to refuel and start the treatment process and recovery process and get ready for Monday. My mindset is always locked in.”
Anthony Davis had 28 points and 18 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who hadn’t lost three straight games since early February. Los Angeles’ prolonged, desperate surge ever since the trade deadline has finally run out of steam against the powerhouse Nuggets, who have won five consecutive playoff games.
“They’ve been at the top of the food chain for a reason, and have a plethora of guys that can hurt you, as was on full display tonight,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “But you know, circumstances are what they are. Difficult, but not impossible.”
Bruce Brown scored 15 points and hit a key 3-pointer down the stretch for the Nuggets before Jokic all but iced it on a 3-pointer with 3:17 to play.
The Lakers’ passionate fans turned out in force for the 17-time champion franchise’s first conference finals games at home since 2010. Los Angeles tried desperately to get back in the series, with James playing 43 minutes after spraining his left ankle in Game 2 on top of his already sore right foot.
But the Nuggets’ flight to the coast didn’t cool off Murray in the slightest: The Canadian guard poured in 17 points in the first quarter and had 26 midway through the second. Reaves racked up 15 points, three assists and three rebounds in the second quarter alone to keep LA in it.
D’Angelo Russell had another rough game for the Lakers, scoring three points on 1-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes. (AP)