Nuggets beat Lakers to lead 3-0: How Denver ignited the late inning to win Game 3

Written by Jovan Buha, Tony Jones, and Nick Kosmider

The Denver Nuggets edged out the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Saturday, winning 119-108 to take a 3-0 lead in the series. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray scored 37 points (30 in the first half) with seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and shot 5-of-11 from 3-point range.
  • Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis dropped 28 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.
  • No team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in postseason NBA history.

the athleteInstant Analysis:

How the Nuggets sparked a late running

When Nikola Jokic received his fourth foul of the game with 7:24 left in the third quarter, Nuggets coach Michael Malone decided to bench his twice-best position of the game for the remainder of the period. Denver was up 68-63 at the time and facing the most pivotal stretch of the series.

Thanks to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 11-point quarter and solid defense, Denver escaped and stared off the bench. Still leading by two points at the start of the final period, Jokić finally found his groove down the stretch to move the Nuggets to the threshold of their first trip to the NBA Finals. – Kosmider

Denver has solved the Los Angeles issue

No matter what the Lakers threw at them, the Nuggets had the answer. Double teams on Murray and Joki. Switch two men game. Greater Defenders. The fastest defenders. The strongest defenders. Denver is simply the better team – and that’s crystal clear after three games.

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The margins were relatively slim, and Los Angeles probably should have won Game 2 to make this series 2-1. However, Denver has proven just how great it is with these first three games. They will win this series, in either four or five games, and should be favorites in the NBA Finals against Miami or Boston. – Poha

The Lakers need to change their starting lineup

Los Angeles’ starting lineup of Davis, LeBron James, Jared Vanderbilt, Austin Reeves and D’Angelo Russell doesn’t work. He helped them get here with a 7-5 record in the playoffs (with one of those losses coming in Game 2).

But the Lakers were short of seven in the 12 minutes the group played on Saturday — a deficit compounded by Los Angeles trailing early in both halves. Lakers Under -53 in the 79th minute for Russell. They are down 15 in the 41st minute for Vanderbilt. At some point, this matters.

Los Angeles is already past that point. Both players should move to the bench and just play sparingly, if at all. Vanderbilt at least offers strong defense on the ball against Murray. Russell has yet to contribute to either party in a meaningful way in the series.

Rui Hachimura (Vanderbilt) and Dennis Schroeder (Russell) should start in their place. – Poha

Denver players step up

On a night when Jokić had a bad run, and Murray dried up well in the second half, the Denver players basically stole the Nuggets’ win.

There were great shots of Michael Porter Jr. There were great shots of Bruce Brown. Aaron Gordon grabbed great rebounds that led to big shots. Caldwell Pope was apparently a big-shot machine that bridged the first and second half. Shows how good and complete this Nuggets team is.

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They have a counter for everything, nothing the Lakers have thrown at them and this series has been massively successful. Denver leads 3-0 in the series. The Nuggets were the better team in all three games. – Jones

Room for improvement

Despite the win gripping the series, Denver knows they have to get one more game in order to move on to the NBA Finals.

To do this, they know they need to clean up a few things. The wrong problem with Joki may or may not be avoidable. The Nuggets know they need to do a little better at transitioning defensively. But other than that, Denver plays like any other team in the postseason.

The Nuggets make shots and they make plays on both ends of the floor. They were on their toes against the Laker Tours. They made it seem like every big shot that needed to be made.

It resulted in Denver giving themselves a big break before the NBA Finals. – Jones

Highlight of the game

Key stats

Murray had 53 points from the fourth quarter of Game 2 to the end of the first half of Game 3 which is the most postseason points over three quarters since 1998.

Joki finished with 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and shot 9-for-19 from the field. LeBron James added 23 points, made 12 assists and seven rebounds. James hit his first 3-pointer from the Conference Finals, moving 3 of 9 from behind the arc.

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(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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