Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals was a back-and-forth affair all night before the Los Angeles Lakers were able to take control late in a 114-108 victory.
Any time L.A. appeared to be separating themselves, Denver was able to quickly respond. There were a couple of instances throughout the game that the Nuggets cut their deficit to only one point, but they never managed to get over the hump.
Although the Lakers are one win from a return to the NBA Finals, they are hardly taking any comfort in holding a 3-1 series lead. L.A. has long preached to keep focus, and that is especially true against a Nuggets team that twice has come back after trailing 3-1 this postseason.
“They are extremely difficult to play against on both sides of the ball,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “They are well-coached defensively, they have great speed and physicality. Obviously, Jamal and the Joker are just playing at an extremely high level offensively, as is their supporting cast. The bench has been fantastic.
“Great respect for this team and definitely know that we have a lot of work to do to finish this series.”
Behind Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, the Nuggets have every reason to still confident about their chances. L.A. was lucky to escape Game 2 with a win off of Anthony Davis’ buzzer-beater, and were thoroughly outplayed in Game 3 where their late-game comeback fell short.
Alex Caruso said after the Game 3 loss that they needed to play faster, and it looked like that was an emphasis in the first half of Game 4.
However, Denver did a good job of adjusting and were able to hang around until Los Angeles pulled away at the end.
It will not be an easy task to close out such a tenacious Nuggets squad, but the Lakers are more than capable of doing so assuming they match their energy and effort in Game 5.
Vogel believes Lakers have met expectations
With the Lakers one win away from the NBA Finals, it is hard to believe how far they have come since Opening Night.
They were touted as a quality team to begin the 2019-20 season, but to some weren’t the same championship contender like the Milwaukee Bucks and L.A. Clippers. However, the Lakers were able to gel quickly and race out to the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed.
“Expectations are always up for debate, for lack of a better way to put it,” Vogel said. If you look at our expectations to start the season, we hoped we would play well in the second half, but we hit our stride very early on in the season.
“We knew we had a chance to be really good. Played at a high level all throughout the season, and fortunately up to this point, we’ve been able to have success in these playoffs.”
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