The Los Angeles Lakers were engaged in an absolute slugfest against the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Every time LeBron James or Anthony Davis made a huge play, the Nuggets would fight back.
More often than not it was rising star Jamal Murray pulling a ridiculous shot out of nowhere to keep Denver close. The Lakers ultimately were able to come away with a 114-108 win to go ahead 3-1 in the series.
A major reason they were able to do so was James’ defense on Murray down the stretch. Murray was outstanding in Game 4, finishing with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but James took over as the primary defender late in the fourth quarter, forcing Murray into some tough shots that he couldn’t convert.
“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of the change. “He did a great job down the stretch trying to contain him 1-on-1. Murray had a great night. Nothing was really working in terms of trying to slow him down until LeBron took that assignment. Game ball to him for that move.”
Whether it was Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green or Rajon Rondo, Murray continued to knock down difficult shots.
James asking for the assignment is another testament of his leadership and willingness to do anything necessary. “I knew it was winning time, and Jamal had it going. The kid is special. He has an array of shots,” James said.
“Triple threat from the three, midrange and also in the paint. For me, it’s just trusting my defensive keys, trusting my study of film, trusting personnel and living with the results. I told my teammate that I had him and everyone else can kind of stay at bay and stay home.
“I was able to get a couple stops and we were able to rebound the basketball, which is the most important thing.”
James wasn’t at his best offensively, hitting just seven of his 18 shots, though he did knock down 11-of-14 from the free throw line. His defense down the stretch was crucial in the Lakers coming out with the much needed win.
Vogel doesn’t believe LeBron is fatigued
Though LeBron had his moments in Game 4, especially defensively down the stretch, he still had some issues on offense as he didn’t always attack as much as some would have liked. James hasn’t been quite at the level he was in the previous round, which has led many to wonder if he isn’t getting fatigued at this point of the playoffs.
For most players in their 17th season it would be expected. But for James, who many argue should have won MVP, fatigue seems like something impossible, and his head coach doesn’t see that as a possibility either.
“I don’t really feel like fatigue has been an issue with that,” Vogel said. “He and I have great communication throughout the game. He’s playing, I think, a career-low playoff minutes from what he’s accustomed to. “But all our guys, we’re always keeping an eye on the potential fatigue factor but I don’t think that’s been the case with him.”
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