The Nuggets wouldn’t allow heartbreak to define them and bounced back with an impressive 114-106 victory over the Lakers.
Following a devasting Game 2 loss in which Los Angeles edged Denver on a buzzer-beating three-pointer, the “home” team responded with a confident showing Tuesday. They took a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Lakers’ largest deficit of the playoffs, and held off a LeBron James-sparked rally to seal their eight-point win.
Jamal Murray led Denver with 28 points to go along with a playoff career-high 12 assists and eight boards to help power his team to a win. James had a triple-double with a game-high 30 points and added 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Michael Malone’s team will look to even up the series on Thursday (7 p.m. MT, TNT).
Here are the takeaways:
JG’s banner night
This is why the Nuggets were so excited to acquire Jerami Grant last summer.
When the forward is on offensively and defensively, he is a game-changing player and he erupted with the best playoff performance in his young career in Game 3 against the Lakers.
Grant poured in a playoff career-high 26 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added three boards and two steals to help Denver seal the result. It was the 26-year-old’s third quarter, when he scored 12, which changed the complexion of the contest. It sparked his team to outscore the Lakers by eight in the quarter and give the Nuggets a 93-75 lead heading into the final 12 minutes of the game.
When the Nuggets exited the playoffs last season, there was an acknowledgment the team needed a player with bounce who could impact the game on both ends with his athleticism. Throughout the playoffs, Grant has taken on the challenge of guarding the other team’s best player. Tonight, he proved to be a factor on the other end as well.
Jamal’s all-around brilliance
With each and every passing game, the Nuggets and their fans are seeing Jamal Murray continue to tap into new areas of his game and find new ways to help his team win.
Throughout the playoffs, we’ve seen how the added 15 pounds of muscle has helped his rebounded and defense. On Tuesday, Murray allowed the game to come to him, choosing to facilitate first before taking over the scoring load in the second half. The 23-year-old dished an incredible (and not to mention playoff career-high) 12 dimes, putting 11 of those in the first three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, Murray was dominant on the scoring end and poured in 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Monte, MPJ step up
Grant, Murray and Nikola Jokić, who had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, all played critical roles on Tuesday. Yet, it would be remiss if the first half efforts of Monte Morris and Michael Porter Jr. weren’t mentioned.
Throughout the Western Conference semifinals and finals, the Nuggets have been inconsistent in the first half of games before finding their rhythm. While they were able to cope with slow starts against the Clippers, that trend has been crippling against the Lakers. Porter Jr. and Morris refused to allow it in Game 3.
Morris led the reserves with an impressive 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting (along with zero turnovers) while Porter Jr. added nine on 4 of 5 shooting as well. The efforts of the two men helped the Nuggets build a 10-point lead heading into halftime and instilled some much-needed confidence into the Malone’s team.