Denver Nuggets 107, Los Angeles Lakers 117: Three takeaways

The Nuggets’ memorable and dramatic campaign in the NBA Bubble has come to a close after suffering an 117-107 Game 5 loss to the Lakers.  Denver rallied from 16 down to enter the fourth quarter with just a three-point deficit, but things would unravel from that point on. Los Angeles would go on an 18-8 run to seal its opponent’s fate. 

Jerami Grant led the Nuggets with 20 points and nine rebounds. LeBron James powered his team to the NBA Finals with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. 

"What more could you ask from a group," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said in reflecting on the team's postseason run. "Just everything in the last 82 days that our team has gone through. The history that we've made, the adversity that we faced, [we] never ran from [it], we embraced it." 

He added, "From a pride perspective, I couldn't be more proud." 

Here are the takeaways Dream run comes to an end  Although the Nuggets came up short in the Western Conference Finals, they had a run for the ages in the Bubble. They can hold their heads up high after an impressive stretch in the NBA’s restart.  From their opening scrimmage, where they fielded the tallest lineup in NBA history, to becoming the first team to rally from two 3-1 deficits, the Nuggets’ can’t quit attitude endeared them to basketball fans all-around the world.  As much as Denver stunned observers time after time, the team also learned about itself in the progress. Jamal Murray rose to superstardom in just under three months. Nikola Jokić showed his heroics in last year’s playoffs were no aberration as he was arguably the most clutch player this postseason. Jerami Grant validated why the Nuggets were so excited to acquire him last offseason, being an athletic force on both ends of the floor. Michael Porter Jr. flashed brightly and deservedly got All-Bubble second team honors. And who could forget Bol Bol in the seeding games?

There were countless storylines and positive developments that came out of this team’s journey. Murray and Grant’s stand for justice were among the moments that will never be forgotten. A phrase that has been constantly said about the Nuggets is “The future is bright in Denver.”  Never has that felt more accurate than it does now. 

"We're making steps, we're moving in the right direction with a great group of guys, I wouldn't want to do it with any other group," Malone said. 

He later added, "Our young guys are only going to get better, which is exciting if you're a Denver Nuggets fan." 

 Offensive struggles rear their head  With Nikola Jokić dealing with foul trouble and Jamal Murray hobbling with a leg injury suffered in the third quarter, it left the Nuggets having to fight for their season with their star duo being hamstrung.  As a result, the Nuggets shot just 42.2 percent from the field, including 8 of 30 from downtown. The inability to find any flow or cohesion on that side of the court became crippling in the fourth quarter, where James went off.  James scored 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Lakers to outscore the Nuggets by eight. Denver shot just 40 percent in the final 12 minutes of the game and couldn’t convert from downtown.  Jerami Grant shines  Grant was dominant in the third quarter and his 14-point outburst almost single-handedly tied the game for Denver. 

His showing wrapped up what was a strong three-game stretch where he averaged 21 points a game and guarded the Lakers top two threats in James and Anthony Davis. Although the Nuggets’ postseason has come to a close, the organization has to be happy with what Grant brought to the team this season. He added some needed bounce on both ends of the floor for the team.  The Nuggets also got solid performances off the bench from Monte Morris, who had 10 points and seven assists, and Michael Porter Jr., who had 10 points in 17 minutes.