The Denver Nuggets are poised to reach the NBA Finals for the first time after taking a 3–0 lead on the Lakers

Nathaniel Smith
3 min readMay 22, 2023
Jamal Murray Denver Nuggets yelling after scoring 11 points in first quarter. (NBAE via Getty Images)

Behind the stellar play of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić, the Denver Nuggets silenced the Los Angeles Lakers crowd taking a commanding 3–0 lead in the western conference final after defeating the Lakers 119–108 Saturday evening at the Crypto.com Arena.

Jamal Murray’s blistering scoring touch carried over from game two, where he registered 23 points in the fourth quarter shooting 6/7 from the field and 4/5 from the three-point line. The Lakers desperately tried to thwart his attempts, but Murray responded with timely clutch baskets en route to a pivotal victory in game two. Initially, game three offered similar results as Murray scored 11 points in the first quarter and an outstanding 30 points in the first half, which helped carry the Nuggets as former two-time most valuable player Nikola Jokić struggled to establish his offensive rhythm in the first half of the game. Despite Murray’s offensive brilliance, the Lakers managed to keep the game close heading into halftime and only trailed by three points as the Nuggets led the game 58–55.

Throughout the playoffs, the Lakers received consistent and high-level production from future Hall of Famers LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and former all-star D’Angelo Russell. Unfortunately, the trend has not carried over against the Nuggets. LeBron James has struggled mightily from the perimeter, shooting an abysmal 15.7 % (3/19) from the three-point line even though he has maintained his season averages through the first three games. D’Angelo Russell has been the biggest disappointment in this series as he has struggled to establish himself offensively or defensively in any of the games. Russell has tallied 21 points throughout three games and has been poor defensively. Due to Russell’s struggles and Murray’s strong play, head coach Darvin Ham has changed his rotation, inserting pesky defenders Dennis Schroder and Jared Vanderbilt to supplant the struggling Russell and offer different looks on the red-hot Murray, and it has not created better results.

After halftime, the Nuggets and Lakers battled competitively throughout the third quarter until Kentavious Caldwell- Pope, who was an integral contributor for the championship Lakers team in 2020, hit a critical three-point shot with two minutes remaining that stretched the score to 81–74 and with contributions from Michael Porter Jr, and Bruce Brown Jr. it seemed like the Nuggets would run away with the game, but the Lakers managed to battle back and reclaim the lead in the fourth quarter after Rui Hachimura scored a mid-range jump shot in front of Jokić to give the lakers an 87–86 advantage. The moment was short-lived as Jokić started to initiate the offense and get the whole Nuggets team involved, and they managed to break open the game and earn an impressive road win.

Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić combing for 61 points to help earn a game three win.

Jamal Murray led the way for the Nuggets scoring 37 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Nikola Jokić aided the Nuggets scoring 24 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. Michael Porter Jr and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributed with 17 and 14 points. Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers, scoring a team-high 28 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Lebron James and second-year player Austin Reaves chipped in, scoring 23 points a piece.

LeBron James hoping the Lakers respond on Monday for Game 4 against the Nuggets.

No team has rallied back from a 3–0 deficit in a playoff series in the NBA. Teams are a combined 0–149 all-time making it extremely unlikely to make history and win four consecutive games after trailing three games. Despite the daunting task, LeBron is leaning on his previous experience winning a series after facing a 3–1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to mount a comeback and earn the first NBA championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016. James feels the Lakers need to focus on one game at a time to get back into the series, “Just focus on game four and get ready for Monday,” said James. “It’s a four-game series for us.” The Lakers will face the Nuggets Monday, May 22, at 8:30 pm at the Crypto.com Arena.

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Nathaniel Smith

Striving to reach my full potential.. BA in Communications and Digital Media... passionate about writing ✍️ music 🎶 .. anime.. sports 🏀 justice ⚖️ equality