Denver Nuggets 103, Los Angeles Lakers 105: Three takeaways
That’s all that can be said after Anthony Davis’ buzzer-beating three-pointer stole a victory from the Nuggets in a 105-103 defeat in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Sunday night.
Nikola Jokić helped the Nuggets rally from 16 down and it was his hook shot over Davis with 20.8 seconds remaining that gave the team a 103-102 lead. The Serbian would finish the contest with a team-high 30 points to go along with nine assists and six rebounds. Davis paced the Lakers with 31 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
The Nuggets are now two games down in the Western Conference Finals and will look to rally back in their “home” game Tuesday (7 p.m. MT, TNT).
"This is the Western Conference Finals. So there are no moral victories. No silver linings," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said.
Here are the takeaways:
A disappointing end
Davis hit his first career postseason buzzer-beater and last time he hit one in his career was all the way back in 2015. It was a painful end for Michael Malone’s team, who had a valiant second half after trailing by 16 in the second quarter. Which points to what should be an area of focus for the Nuggets—getting off to a stronger start.
Los Angeles scored 60 points, hitting 43.8 percent from downtown, in the opening 24 minutes. They would score only 45 points on 40 percent shooting, including a quiet 6 of 20 from three, in the final two quarters. The effort on the defensive end needs to be more consistent if the Nuggets hope to fight their way back into this series.
Another area of improvement needs to come from downtown and free-throw shooting, especially in the second half. The Nuggets hit just 3 of their 13 attempts from three in second half and missed eight free throws on the night. If they converted half of those misses, they’d be walking away with a win from Game 2.
Jokić’s unbelievable fourth quarter
Jokić hit just five of his first 14 shots for 18 points, affecting the opening three quarters with his playmaking (he had nine assists in that span). In the final 12 minutes of the game, the 25-year-old took over offensively and almost willed the Nuggets to a win.
Jokić scored 12 points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting. Although he hit just one three-pointer in that quarter, it appeared to open up the floor for the big man. Despite having a first-team All-Defense player on him in Davis, he wouldn’t be denied. His skillful hook shot that he has been utilizing throughout the postseason is almost unguardable and it proves his ability to continue to add new wrinkles to his repertoire.
"We need to fight. That's our only chance," the center said after the game.
Jamal Murray, Jokić’s fellow star teammate, added another 25 points and four assists on 8 of 19 shooting.
MPJ sparks gutsy bench unit
Michael Porter Jr. struggled through the opening three quarters in Game 1, shooting 1 of 6 before adding 10 points in garbage time. He made sure there wouldn’t be a repeat performance in Game 2.
The Nuggets rookie came alive on Sunday’s contest, finishing with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting to give his team a much-needed jolt. Porter Jr.’s confidence was on full display early in the second quarter. With Denver trailing by 10, the 22-year-old swished a three-pointer with LeBron James draped all over him. That bravado was contagious for the bench unit, who was relied upon to help the Nuggets rally late in the game.
"I got a couple of shots to go [in] early and I was just trying to be aggressive," Porter Jr. said.
With Denver trailing by 16 late in the second quarter, the team’s reserves played their part on both ends to help the Nuggets fight all the way back and take a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Monte Morris provided some offensive spark in the second quarter, putting up seven points on 3-of- 4 shooting to help keep the game within reach. Torrey Craig and PJ Dozier’s presence on defense were invaluable. Both were utilized at times in the fourth quarter. Dozier was in the lineup when the Nuggets held the Lakers without a bucket between the 3:03-minute mark to the 26.7-second mark in that quarter.
"He did so many good things," Jokić said of Dozier. "I see how he's developing, I see how he's into it. He buys in and he's listening to coaches. It was nice to see the [improvement]in his [play]...He's getting better."
The Nuggets’ bench outscored the Lakers’ second unit 32 to 23. Despite the end result, the lineups utilized could be something that is revisited in Game 3.