2024 Playoffs: West First Round | Nuggets (2) vs. Lakers (7)

Nuggets-Lakers: 5 takeaways from Denver's buzzer-beating comeback

Down 20 points in Game 2, Denver storms back and ultimately topples Los Angeles on Jamal Murray's buzzer-beating jump shot.

Jamal Murray creates a lasting memory for Nuggets fans at the Lakers' expense.

• Download the NBA App

DENVER — Right after he buried the most important shot of his life, right after he buried the Lakers 101-99 in Game 2 of this breathless first-round playoff game, Jamal Murray found himself … buried. Of course.

His momentum after taking a 16-foot jumper at the buzzer forced him stumbling backward, and under the Nuggets bench, giving him a split second to watch the ball swish before being smothered and blinded by love.


At that moment, Ball Arena erupted and the Lakers were shaken. The Nuggets and Murray were pushed on their heels all night, down 20 points in the third quarter, left scrambling for answers.

Then they found life at the finish and with another win they continued to bamboozle the Lakers. 

After the final tally, there are two more numbers to digest: the Nuggets are up 2-0 in this first-round series and have won 10 straight (regular season and playoffs combined) over LeBron James and the Lakers. 

Here are five takeaways from Game 2:

1. Is Murray’s shot the biggest in Nuggets’ history?

Could be. Should be. Actually, after further review, it was. Because last season during the title run — the only Nuggets’ title run — none of the games came down to that.

And for context: That shot changed a game, might’ve just changed a series, and he dropped it over Anthony Davis — who should’ve been a Kia Defensive Player Of The Year finalist this season — at the buzzer.

It also changed a player on this night as Murray was trapped much of the game in a fog, missing 13 of his first 16 shots.

So, yeah. That shot was big, or as they say in these parts, it had elevation.

Or as Davis said afterward, just before literally dropping the mic and abruptly leaving the interview podium: “Jamal Murray made a shot.”

Yes, he did.

“All the credit to my teammates,” Murray said. “There was a point in the game where I had missed a couple. I started looking to find guys (by passing) and every single one of them told me to shoot it. My teammates were ready to pick me up. It was nice to have that support. Everybody was in my ear.”

After getting switched from James on to Davis, Murray gave a slight hesitation, took a step to create space and released a fallaway.

“He’s never shied from the moment, the spotlight,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “There is a `Playoff Jamal.’ A lot of guys who are All-Stars can’t come close to what he’s done in the postseason.”

2. Lakers might not recover from this

They were up 20, had the Nuggets staggered and took the crowd from the game. Davis had a strong start, James an amazing finish and D’Angelo Russell rained 3-pointers all night.

And. Wasted. It All.

The Lakers aren’t just down 0-2 to Denver. Their spirits and chances of winning the series are crushed at least temporarily … they’re only human. An opportunity was blown and, oh yeah, they haven’t beaten the Nuggets since 2022.

Oh, and oh yeah, Part II: They’ll have to win four out of the next five to shock everybody as badly as they’ve just been shocked themselves, starting Thursday in LA.

“It stings,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham. “We need to give (the Nuggets) this feeling in Game 3.”

3. LeBron should’ve been the hero

This was shaping up as a signature performance by LeBron. It had all the necessary ingredients — defense, 3-point daggers, incredible fourth quarter — to rank among his best.

His block of Murray’s dunk at the rim is second only to his swat of Andre Iguodala’s layup in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals vs. Golden State. It was that seismic (and Murray wasn’t the same for the next two quarters).

Then LeBron punished the Nuggets in the fourth by scoring 12 of his 26 points. In the game’s final 6 minutes, he hit back-to-back 3-pointers, nailed a 15-foot fadeaway and got a dunk off a steal. It was a fabulous flurry.

But, he missed an open 3-pointer with 16 seconds with the score tied at 99, opening the door for Murray. The last time LeBron missed a memorable 3 in the final seconds of a postseason game, it flipped in his favor — Chris Bosh grabbed the rebound and threw to Ray Allen, who tied Game 6 of the 2013 Finals.

Not this time. After the buzzer, an annoyed LeBron chased down the referees, complaining about a reversed call on Russell’s layup in the final minute.

4. So far, Davis is series’ best player

That’s a strange distinction for someone who is trailing 2-0 and sharing the court with the heavy favorite to win this season’s Kia MVP.

But once again, Davis was dominant and had his way against the Nuggets, who were powerless at both ends against him. He made 14 of his first 15 shots, mainly by feasting on mid-range jumpers, and hassled the Nuggets into 35% first-half shooting.

And this was a follow-up to his 32-point, 14-rebound, five-assist, four-block effort in Game 1.

But, much like James, Davis’ night fell just short of perfect. He had 24 points in the first half but went scoreless in the final 17 minutes. And of course, his fingertips were too short to redirect Murray’s game-winner.

Sullen after the game, Davis seemed confused by the Lakers’ effort: “We have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

5. The second-most important play was a broken one

A LeBron dunk put the Lakers up three with 1:23 left. On the next possession, the Nuggets crumbled … they were sloppy, the ball was loose, and Nikola Jokic found it and flung it toward the basket.

At that moment, the game tilted in the Lakers’ favor. There was a chance to have the ball and the lead. But they didn’t get the ball.

Aaron Gordon recovered it and desperately threw it to Michael Porter Jr., standing alone on the arc. His 3-pointer was the second-most important one of the night as it tied the game and helped make Murray’s moment happen.

So now it’s 10 straight for the Nuggets over the Lakers. Nothing lasts forever. But after a night like Monday, this seems like it might.

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.