Dennis Schroder dribbles
Dennis Schroder dribbles

Lakers Lose Heartbreaker to Hot Shooting Nuggets

In what was effectively a must-win game for the Lakers to avoid an 0-3 deficit, the Nuggets proved their worth as the Western Conference's top seed, toppling the Lakers 119-108 to take a commanding lead and leave themselves within a single win from reaching the NBA Finals.

In the many storylines of this game, none were bigger than the difference in shot making as the Nuggets were able to hit every big jump shot, while the Lakers' inconsistencies from behind the arc laid bare the cruelty of the basic math problem that three is greater than two. In the simple exchange of shot attempts and free throws taken, the Nuggets advantage in field goal attempts (88 to 84) was more or less neutralized by the Lakers' 10 more attempts from the free throw line.

But Denver outscored the Lakers by 21 from distance, knocking down 17 of their 41 attempts from behind the arc (41.5%), compared to the Lakers who were able to connect on just 10 of their 32 attempts (31.3%). That difference in volume of three-point shot attempts and makes is simply too hard to overcome in a game that was otherwise close in most every other metric.

From the Nuggets side, Jamal Murray carried over his hot shooting from the 4th quarter of Game 3 to score 37 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists in Game 4. Murray shot the lights out again, connecting on 15 of his 29 shots overall and five of his 11 attempts from behind the arc. Murray did much of his work in the 1st half, scoring 30 points to carry Denver when they needed it most as Jokic and their role players mostly struggled to gain traction offensively.

On the Lakers' side, they got very good performances from Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves to keep them in this game for as long as they could.

LeBron's shooting efficiency was not where it could be (8-19 from the field), but he scored 23 points, dished out 12 assists, and grabbed seven rebounds in a game where he did well to control the tempo and flow of the game as a primary ball handler. He consistently set the team up for good looks in the half court either by working an action for himself or creating advantage and then dishing to teammates, but the team's overall shot making just did not deliver as much as hoped.

Davis, meanwhile, bounced back from his offensive struggles in Game 3 to lead the Lakers in scoring with 28 points on 11-18 shooting to go along with a game-high 18 rebounds. Davis played with force on both ends of the floor, attacking the basket offensively and really battling on the defensive backboards while also blocking two shots. On several possessions AD high-pointed the ball for athletic finishes at the basket or to leap over the top of Nuggets players to clean up defensive rebounds, giving the Lakers the paint presence they sorely need vs. a strong and physical Denver group.

Austin, meanwhile, played another wonderful floor game, scoring 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Reaves was also the team's lone perimeter player who found his range, going 7-10 from the field overall while knocking down three of his five three-pointers. Mixing in long jumpers with strong attacks to the paint, Austin was able to also get to the foul line for six attempts, making all of them. Just another top flight performance when the Lakers needed it most.

Despite these strong offensive nights from these three, though, the Lakers simply did not have enough answers for the Nuggets' shot making. While Murray carried them in the first half, it was role players Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter, Jr. who carried the team in the 3rd quarter, and then Jokic in the final period to really close the door on the Lakers.

KCP showed again why he's a championship level player, scoring 12 of his 17 points in the third period while hitting three triples in the quarter. Porter, Jr. joined the show by scoring six points, with all of them coming on two critical three pointers that came while Jokic sat with foul trouble. Then, in the 4th quarter, when Jokic came back in, Denver played through their MVP big man to carry them home and he delivered with 15 of his 24 points in the final frame to ultimately sink the Lakers.

All credit due to Denver in this one. In a critical game the Lakers needed to have, it was the Nuggets who stepped into a hostile road environment and got the win. The series will resume on Monday in Game 4 with the Lakers looking to extend the fight and push things back to Denver.