Written by Jovan Buha, Nick Kosmaider, and Tony Jones
The Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Thursday at home, coming off a strong second-half performance, taking a 2-0 lead in the series. Here’s what you need to know:
- Jamaal Murray led the Nuggets with 37 points — 23 of them in the fourth quarter — on 11-of-24, including six 3-point games. Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists, moving to third all-time in triple playoffs doubles (13).
- LeBron James and Austin Reeves scored 22 points each. Rui Hachimura added 21 off the bench, helping the Lakers to a five-point halftime lead.
- Los Angeles went 23-of-26 from the free throw line while Denver was 16-of-18.
- Game three starts on Saturday at 8:30 PM ET in Los Angeles.
the athleteInstant Analysis:
The amendment pays the Nuggets dividend
Nuggets coach Michael Malone changed Gokic’s resting style and it paid off for Denver. MVP usually falls twice at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With the Nuggets up 79-76 going into the final period, Malone elected to leave Jokic on the floor. And Jokic’s presence, which caught the attention of the Los Angeles defense in a big way, helped start a powerful fourth-quarter wave off Murray, who had 23 points in that period.
When Jokić hit the bench at the 9:38 mark of the fourth quarter to rest two minutes with the Nuggets two minutes down, Murray’s heater was working fine, helping Denver to victory through what could have been a dicey stretch without the star center. Denver’s victory without a field goal from Jokic in the final period was a testament to Murray’s brilliance and Denver’s resolve in Game 2. – Cosmider
With Game 2 so important, Malone squeezed his rotation a bit, for the first time in the postseason. He actually played nine men when he was playing eight. But Reggie Jackson only played three minutes – due to foul trouble with Kentavius Caldwell Pope – and rising star Christian Brown played just over four minutes. Jeff Green played 15 minutes, but this was essentially a six-man game, with Bruce Brown playing 37 minutes off the bench.
Jokić played the entire third quarter and played in the fourth quarter for the first time in the series. Malone said he made this decision because the Lakers went 10-0 in the minutes aside from Jokić in the second quarter. “We were tired by the end of the game,” said Murray. “We could tell they were tired, too.” – Jones
LA adapts with mixed results
Los Angeles changed its starting lineup after two disastrous periods in Game 1. The new lineup — the starting lineup of Anthony Davis, James, Jared Vanderbilt, Reeves and D’Angelo Russell — fared better, but they still held a three-point lead in 14 minutes, per NBA.com. The Lakers also slapped James on Jokic for some of the third quarter and much of the fourth quarter, which worked well as James played a key role in holding the MVP twice for 9-for-21.
The Lakers had no answer for Murray, going nuclear with 23 points in the fourth quarter. With Hachimura and Dennis Schroeder checking him, Murray faltered in passing, dribbling and dribbling moves. His shot against a group of defenders was outstanding – and he was the difference-maker in what was a close match. – Poha
Lakers being empty
The Lakers gassed as this game went on, the cumulative effect of a two-month ramp-up — Los Angeles essentially played at stadium-like intensity for eight straight weeks prior to a Play-In game — into the Conference Finals. Add in the everyday nature of the past two innings, the soaring, uptempo Denver style of play, a two-man buzz game from Joki and Murray, and the Lakers had little left in the tank as the Nuggets pulled away in the fourth. They missed point shots at the rim and open 3s wide the stretch of the game that they would normally have. They fell behind on rebounds and loose balls. With their season on the line in Game 3 – neither team has come back from a 3-0 series deficit – they have 48 hours to figure out a way to combat their fatigue. – Poha
Denver win statement?
The foil on the shoulder of the nuggets is as wide as all the outdoors. Now, with a 2-0 lead, Malone has questioned the national narrative that suggested the Lakers “found something” in their Game 1 loss on Tuesday night. “We don’t need the media attention,” Jokić said, but the Nuggets were clearly upset that their Game 1 victory wasn’t the story that came out of Game 1. In the locker room, Denver tried to downplay the amount of stimulus it was, but it played Certainly a role.
Now, Denver is turning its attention to Game 3 on Saturday, where a win would allow the Nuggets to put a stranglehold on the series. – Jones
Highlight of the game
Jokić became the first player in NBA post-season history with four 20-point triple-doubles, According to ESPN Stats & Info. He scored 34 points in Game 1, 32 in Game 6 of the Conference Semifinals against Phoenix, and 29 in Game 5.
(Photo: Ron Chinoy/USA Today)
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