March 15, 2024

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Murray’s Big Fourth Quarter Propels Nuggets past Lakers 108-103 for 2-0 Lead in West Finals

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Murray's Big Fourth Quarter Propels Nuggets past Lakers 108-103 for 2-0 Lead in West Finals

The Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter, 108-103, to take a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals. Jamal Murray scored 23 of his team-high 37 points during this period.

The focus of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night was on Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic’s pick-and-roll partner, following the Serbian’s spectacular performance in the first game.

Murray contributed 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter to the Denver Nuggets’ comeback 108-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, giving them a 2-0 series lead.

“He was special,” Jokic said. “He essentially won the game for us.”

Murray struggled in the first three quarters, missing 12 of his 17 shots, but found his stroke in the fourth, going 6 for 7 with four 3-pointers and sparking a 15-1 run that gave Denver a 96-84 lead.

“He made shots at the end of the clock,” Lamentably, LeBron James. “He made two spectacular shots during our 24 seconds of guarding me and Anthony Davis. In the fourth, he was making his three-point attempt. I’m not shocked because he’s done it before. It occasionally is a never-miss league.”

Denver made seven 3s overall, including seven in the fourth quarter.

“It would have been a lot easier if I had made them in the first half,” said Murray, who hasn’t been able to get rid of his earache since Round 2, is still competing.

After ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters admitted that she had never seen the two-time MVP play before Game 1, when he had 34 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists, Jokic added 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists the next day, giving the Nuggets the finger.

“For those that don’t know him, he’s got 13 playoff triple-doubles now,” Post-Game 2, Malone scowled. “He still performs on the biggest stage in the world every night, which is just incredible.”

As for Jokic, he brushed off the slights on him and his teammates, saying, “We’ve seen this before.”

Malone was extremely incensed that the Lakers received all of the attention.

“You win Game 1 and all everybody talked about was the Lakers,” Malone said. “Let’s face it: the dominant national narrative was that everything was okay with the Lakers. Despite being down 1-0, they came up with a solution.’ Nikola’s recent historic performance went unmentioned. As of right now, he is third all-time with 13 triple-doubles (in playoffs). He is doing something truly amazing.

“The Nuggets were not the focus of their story, though. Nikola was not the focus of the story. The Lakers’ adjustments were the subject of the story. Therefore, you know, you put that in your pipe, smoke it, and then come back knowing that we’re going to win 2-0.”

In their history, the Nuggets have never come this close to the NBA Finals. James and the Lakers, who are 8-0 in the playoffs, are playing in Game 3 on Saturday night at Arena.

Prior to the fourth quarter, Malone reportedly told Murray to stop worrying about his poor shooting and instead concentrate on making a contribution in other ways. He took note of that advice and responded by snatching up three significant defensive rebounds, twice stealing the ball, and making 4-of-5 three-pointers and 7-of-8 free throws.

“Three-point line is what killed us in the fourth,” James said.

Malone was aware that Murray would receive a lot more buckets after he finally found the goal.

“We all know … he just has to see one go in,” Malone said, and when that happened, “he kind of looked up to the heavens and that’s all he needs. A hula hoop is what he shoots into after that.”

The Lakers fought back just like they did in Game 1. Austin Reaves’ jump shot brought them within three points before Murray made two free throws with 12 seconds remaining and Bruce Brown stole the ball from James and dribbled out the remaining eight seconds.

With an 8-0 record in the playoffs, the Nuggets improved to 41-8 at home, the best record in the NBA.

Los Angeles’ 22 goals came from James and Reaves. In addition to Rui Hachimra’s 21 points off the bench, Davis scored 18 points after pouring in 40 in the game’s opening frame.

The Nuggets, who are the top seed for the first time in their history, looked as though they would lose their first-round bye to the Lakers for a good portion of the evening. In order to win the conference championship, the Lakers had to win the first games of the series against Memphis and Golden State.

Many people thought coach Darvin Ham would start Hachimura to try to stymie the Nuggets’ star center from the start after watching the excellent defense Hachimura provided on Jokic in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ defeat in Game 1. But when he came back off the bench, he only scored four points in the second half after scoring 17 in the first.

“Proud of our guys,” Ham said. “We addressed many of the things that we had promised to try to do better, and they recovered. Still, transition D needs to be improved. Overall though, we just hit a rough patch; the drive, the effort, and the sense of urgency were all there.”

As well as a suddenly smoldering Jamal Murray.


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