NBA Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
Michael Malone mentioned in his post-Game One press conference that the national narrative revolves around Los Angeles, not Denver. Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets needed more credit for how good they were, instead focusing on what the Lakers could do better.
The media has been drooling over the Lakers’ potential NBA Finals matchup with the Celtics and underestimating what the Nuggets and Heat bring.
The Nuggets already lead the series 3-0. Jokic has been excellent as ever, but Jamal Murray has been the unsung hero, scoring at least 31 points in all three games. After missing the 2021-2022 season, he has made up and overcompensated for all the lost time.
It wasn’t just Jokic and Murray; all of the Nuggets’ role players stepped up. With their star player requiring so much attention, open shots create all over the court. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was solid against his old team, hitting four 3-pointers for 17 points in Game 3.
Game 3 is supposed to be a textbook rebound for the Lakers, trailing 0-2 and returning to the “zig-zag” position at home after taking a straight 6-0 lead in the playoffs. The Nuggets’ road differential isn’t good either, but that’s okay. Even with Jokic dealing with foul trouble, the Nuggets increased the score in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers aren’t playing badly, and it’s just that the Nuggets are playing better.
D’Angelo Russell had a rough game against the Nuggets. He averaged seven points and four assists while shooting 29.6 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three. His lack of production had a significant impact. He also stole shots from others, most notably Austin Reaves.
Russell’s lackluster performance on the defensive end begs the question, what will the Lakers decide to do with him in Game 4? Unless they bench him or he finds a way to get him together, the Lakers’ season will likely be over on Tuesday.
Regarding Reeves, his confidence is sky-high, and his usage continues to increase. Reeves has made at least three 3-pointers in six straight games and is averaging 39 minutes per game in this series. With Russell struggling and dwindling minutes, I continue to expect plenty of opportunities from Reeves. The Lakers needed to shoot more 3s to keep up, and Reeves gave them the best chance.
James also needs to throw it into additional gear. After going 0 for ten from beyond the arc in his first two games, he hit three 3-pointers in his final game. It will give him confidence in his shot and prepare him for a big game. It looked like he sometimes conserves his energy throughout the playoffs, but he gave it his all in this knockout.
Denver has all the momentum, but I hope the Lakers make a last-ditch effort to save face and maintain their dignity. Another twist is working for the Lakers.
The Lakers still have significant home-court advantage, and the Nuggets’ road split leaves more desire. I don’t have much faith in the Lakers winning and covering the entire game, but they’re going strong.
|Los Angeles Lakers
|Los Angeles Lakers