Denver Nuggets 108, Los Angeles Lakers 114: Three Takeaways

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

The Nuggets couldn’t build off the momentum of their Game 3 win as they suffered a 114-108 loss to the Lakers in Game 4.

Jamal Murray was impressive yet again for Denver, putting up 32 points and eight assists on 60 percent shooting. The Lakers were led by Anthony Davis, who had 34 points and five boards.

The Nuggets will revisit familiar territory as they face their third-straight 3-1 deficit in the playoffs. They’ll hope for another case of Déjà vu when they tip off Game 5 on Saturday (7 p.m., TNT).

"We believe. We've been here before and there's no pressure on us," Monte Morris said. "The pressure is on the Lakers right now to get the job done." 

He added, "There's no pressure on us, so play loose, have fun with it and live with the results. There's no quit in us." 

Here are the takeaways: 

Rebounding, free throws disparity prove costly

The Lakers had 12 offensive rebounds, the Nuggets had six. Los Angeles went to the line 35 times Thursday, Denver took 23 foul shots. It is those two factors that powered the Lakers to a Game 4 win.

In the Nuggets’ win in Game 3, they outrebounded the Lakers by almost 20, holding a 44-25 edge on the glass. In Game 4, Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel swapped JaVale McGee for Dwight Howard in the starting five and the move paid off immediately. The former eight-time NBA All-Star had 11 boards, including six on the offensive glass. Though the Lakers had a slight edge on the boards, their offensive boards tally allowed them to have 25 second-chance points. That is crippling considering the Nuggets held the team to 47.5 percent shooting, including just 33 percent from the arc.

"As a team we definitely like we lost [the game] on the boards," Michael Porter Jr. said. "That was a big area that really hurt us tonight."

"We did a poor job in that area tonight," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone added. "They were more physical, more aggressive and that's one of the main reasons why we lost." 

The other area where the Nuggets had a significant disadvantage was free throws, where the Lakers had a 35-23 edge. Some observers might consider that advantage controversial considering recent reports, especially in the fourth quarter where Los Angeles went to the charity stripe 17 times.

"I think I'm going to have to go through the proper channels like they did, to see if we can figure out how we can get some more free throws," Malone said. 

The Lakers star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 28 free throws – five more than the entire Nuggets team.

Jamal’s brilliance continues

In the Western Conference Finals against a vaunted Lakers defense, Murray is averaging 24.7 points on 52.1 percent shooting, including a sizzling 41 percent from downtown. That hot hand continued in Game 4.

Murray had an array of dazzling forays to the basket, but he had an iconic moment in the second quarter. The 23-year-old drove into the lane where he was met by LeBron James, who was waiting to block the guard’s shot. Seeing the play unfold, Murray went to the rim and switched hands mid-air to get past the Lakers superstar. It was a moment reminiscent of the great Michael Jordan play from the 1991 Finals against, you guessed it, the Lakers.

"He's gotten best [defender] of everybody [we've faced]," Malone said. "That's the ultimate sign of respect." 

Despite the result, Murray’s continued rise points to a bright future for the 23-year-old and the Nuggets.

Offense stagnates in the second half

Although Murray had another strong game, the Nuggets overall couldn’t find a consistent rhythm on offense in the final 24 minutes of Game 4. After shooting an impressive 59 percent in the first half, the team slumped to just 42.1 percent in the final two quarters. The aforementioned foul issues and fatigue might have played a role.

Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap both tallied five fouls in the contest, limiting the effectiveness of both men. Millsap, who had been playing strong defensive on Anthony Davis throughout the series, was limited to 17 minutes. Jokić played 36 minutes, but only had 13 field goals.


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