DENVER, CO (AP) In the Western Conference playoffs on Thursday night, Jamal Murray stole the show after Nikola Jokic’s beast video game in the first game.
Murray contributed 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-103 to take a 2-0 series lead.
He was special, Jokic said. “In general, he won us the video game.”
Murray struggled in the first three quarters, missing 12 of his 17 attempts, but found his stroke in the fourth, finishing 6 for 7, including 4 3-pointers, and maintaining a 15-1 run that gave Denver a 96-84 advantage.
LeBron James regretted the chance that was taken as the clock was running out. We had a 24-second safe period during which he made two clutch shots, one over Anthony Davis and the other over me. In the fourth, he had his three-point shot ready. I’m not surprised because he’s done it before. It’s a league that almost never misses.
Denver made 7 three-pointers throughout the entire game, including 7 in the fourth quarter.
Murray, who has been dealing with an earache since Round 2, said, “It would have been much easier if I had made them in the first half.” Murray is still competing.
A day after ESPN sideline press reporter Lisa Salters gave the Nuggets the finger by admitting that she had never seen the two-time MVP play before Game 1, when he had 34 points, 21 boards, and 14 assists, Jokic had 23 points, 17 rebounds, and a tonne of assists.
After Game 2, Malone scoffed, “For those that do not understand him, he’s got 13 playoff triple-doubles now.” What he continues to accomplish at night on the most important stage in the world is truly incredible.
The slights against him and his teammates were rebuffed by Jokic, who said, “It’s nothing new for us.”
Malone was really irate that the Lakers received the entire bar.
Malone said, “You win Game 1 and all the talk was on the Lakers. “Let’s be honest, the Lakers’ greatness was the subject of a national tale. Despite being down 1-0, they made a decision. Nobody mentioned Nikola’s simple historical effectiveness. Third all-time with 13 triple-doubles (in playoffs). He is accomplishing something very exceptional.
But their tale had nothing to do with the Nuggets. Nikola wasn’t the subject of the tale. The Lakers and their adaptations were the subject of the narrative. You realise, you put that in your pipeline, you light it, and when you come back, you realise that we are going to win 2-0.
In fact, the Nuggets have never in their history come this close to making the NBA Finals. At Crypto.com Arena, where James and the Lakers are 8-0 in the playoffs, video game 3 will take place on Saturday.
Malone claimed he told Murray to focus on making other contributions rather than worrying about his shooting woes going into the fourth quarter. He followed those advice, grabbing three significant defensive rebounds, taking the ball twice, and making 4-of-5 deep shots and 7-of-8 free throws.
James said, “Three-point line is what eliminated us in the fourth.”
Malone was aware that many more containers would appear once Murray finally found the internet.
Malone said, “We all understand… he only wants to see one in, and when it happens, he kind of admired the paradises, and that’s all he needs. He then follows up by shooting into a hula hoop.
Similar to Game 1, the Lakers didn’t lose momentum quickly. Austin Reaves’ jumper brought them within three points before Murray made two free throws with 12 seconds left and Bruce Brown stole the ball from James and dribbled out the last eight seconds.
The Nuggets improved to 41-8 at home, best in the NBA, including an 8-0 record in the postseason.
For Los Angeles, James and Reaves each scored 22. Rui Hachimra added 21 points off the bench and Davis finished with 18 points after collecting 40 in the first game.
For a good portion of the evening, it appeared as though the Lakers would deny the Nuggets, who are in the lead for the first time ever in their history, the advantage of playing on their home court. To advance to the championship game, the Lakers defeated Memphis and Golden State in the series openers.
Many believed that coach Darvin Ham would start Hachimura to try to stifle the Nuggets’ star centre from the start after seeing how well he defended Jokic in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss in Game 1. Instead, he came off the bench once more, scoring 17 points in the first half but only 4 in the second.
“Proud of our people,” Ham said. “They improved. We took care of a lot of the critical things that we promised to try to do much better. Still, shift D has to be a lot better. In general, the effort, sincerity, and intensity were all present; we just caught a terrible patch.
And a surprisingly blazing-hot Jamal Murray.
Los Angeles made 23 of 26 completely free throws for the Lakers. Together, Davis and James were 13 of 36 from the floor.
Nuggets: Malone kept Jokic in to start the fourth quarter after watching the Lakers go on a 9-0 run to start the second quarter while Jokic and Murray were sitting on the bench. Malone remarked, “Nikola’s like Secretariat, man. That person has endless stamina.