Nuggets start hot to cream Lakers in LA and move within win of sweep and first NBA title crack for franchise – rezal404

Jamal Murray (left) and the Nuggets have run away from LeBron James and the Lakers.

Jamal Murray (left) and the Nuggets have run away from LeBron James and the Lakers. —REUTERS

An efficient Denver squad routed the Lakers in Downtown LA on Saturday and the Nuggets put a foot in their first NBA Finals appearance by taking a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference title series.

LeBron James, though, refused to concede defeat even after falling into that deep hole that has left the Lakers no other choice but to rewrite league history to reach the Finals.

Jamal Murray scored 37 points, using a dazzling first-half shooting performance that led to a 119-108 win as the Nuggets moved within another victory of playing for the crown and finally stopping the seventh-seeded Lakers on their tracks.

Murray also finished with seven rebounds and six assists while Nikola Jokic added 24 points—including 15 in the fourth quarter—to steer Denver to victory.

“We stayed with it,” Murray told ESPN afterwards. “We just had a hit-first mentality that we’ve had through the playoffs. We kept them at a distance for most of the game.

“I just felt like we executed throughout the game and hit first.”

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 28 points, while James and Austin Reaves added 23 points apiece.

Lakers coach Darvin Ham admitted his team had been unable to handle Murray early on.

“He got scorching off,” Ham said of Murray. “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 helped.”

In the history of the NBA, no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs.

James however, insisted the Lakers could turn around the series, starting with a win in Game 4 on Monday.

Asked if “believed” was still present in the Lakers locker room, James replied: “It should be. I hope so.

“I can’t speak for the guys right now because I don’t know what’s going on through all their minds right now. But I still do.”

James said he would use the possibility of rewriting history and leading the Lakers back from the brink as a motivator.

“That’s the only mindset for me for sure,” he said.

James added that his message to teammates for the remainder of the series would be “just one at a time.”

“Just focus on Game 4 and you know, that’s all you can really think about,” he said. “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.”

So heat on a roll

Meanwhile in the East, the Heat look to take their winning ways at home and push the Boston Celtics to the brink of elimination on Sunday when their Eastern Conference finals series shifts to Miami.

The eighth-seeded Heat have won all five of their home games in the playoffs thus far. They also have backed the second-seeded Celtics into a corner by winning the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Boston.

Jimmy Butler collected 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists in Miami’s 111-105 victory over Boston on Friday, while Bam Adebayo contributed 22, 17 and nine, respectively.

“Jimmy and Bam just really anchored us offensively,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s great when your two best players can lead you, in a place where the ball can go and everybody else is just playing off of those guys.

“Both of them at some point basically guarded everybody on the floor, basically at some point with the switches. They are going to burn a lot of calories on that end, but they have to shoulder massive responsibilities for us on the other end.”

Miami is looking to become just the second eighth-ranked team in league history to make the Finals. —REPORTS FROM AFP and Reuters

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.

Your subscription has been successful.


Don’t miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896-6000.

For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.