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Thursday night in the 2023 NBA Playoffs saw the Los Angeles Lakers blow an 11-point lead in a 108-103 loss to the Denver Nuggets, who take a 2-0 lead. Jamal Murray was the hero this time for Denver, scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter, nearly outscoring the Lakers (24 points) by himself in the final frame.
Lakers Miss Huge Opportunity
Early on, this game was setting up very well for the Lakers to even the series. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were struggling on the offensive end, but the team’s defense and rebounding looked much better than it did in Game 1.
Nikola Jokic was not nearing a triple-double by halftime, Jamal Murray was shooting blanks, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had early foul trouble. The Nuggets were 4-of-16 from 3 in the first half.
But the Lakers failed to build on their 11-point lead in the second quarter when Denver looked most vulnerable. In fact, the game was arguably lost at a time when the Lakers missed 10 straight shots and allowed Denver right back in the game.
The saving grace for LA was Rui Hachimura, who made his first 8 shots off the bench. The Lakers led 53-48 at halftime, but it should have been bigger than that.
Jamal Murray’s Heroics
Jamal Murray has a bad habit of following a big game with a cold one, and that was the case through the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, Murray was remarkable and completely turned the game around for Denver. He shot 6-of-7 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3 on his way to 23 points. Jokic did not even have a single point in the quarter, going 0-for-4 from the field. It was all Murray.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were let down by their stars. Anthony Davis shot just 4-of-15 from the field, finishing with 18 points. Perhaps more than ever at any point in his career, LeBron James looked his age. He did not finish a handful of plays at the rim that you would always expect him to finish. On a first-half dunk attempt, the ball just slipped right out of his hand. He finished with 22 points on 19 shots, and he was 0-for-6 from 3-point territory as his struggles in that department continue.
LeBron has missed 19 straight 3-point shots in the fourth quarter this postseason, the most by any player in the last 25 postseasons. That included three misses in the fourth quarter of this game as the Lakers did not have an answer for Murray’s hot shooting.
Austin Reaves did the best he could with another 5 made 3s, but the Lakers were just 8-of-30 from 3 (26.7%) in the game. They also saw their turnovers go up to 12 after having just 7 in Game 1.
A 3 by Reaves made it 101-99 with under a minute to play. But after some free throws pushed it to 103-99, James had a really bad missed layup with 26 seconds left that all but doomed the Lakers. He also turned the ball over in the final seconds with the Lakers down by 5 points.
The Lakers covered the spread by a single point for the second-straight game, but that is no consolation for a 2-0 hole. Teams leading 2-0 in the Conference Finals are 72-6 (.923) in NBA history.
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