A furious fourth-quarter rally by the Los Angeles Lakers fell short and they dropped Game 3 to the Denver Nuggets, 114-106. The Lakers still hold a 2-1 series lead heading into Thursday’s Game 4.
The Lakers got off to a good start, forcing a pair of turnovers and turning them into transition baskets to take a quick 8-2 lead. LeBron James mimicked his Game 2 opening quarter, looking to drive the ball and finish in the lane for layups.
With Los Angeles shifting to their small-ball lineup, Nikola Jokic went to work in the painted area and finished several easy shots at the rim to give Denver the lead. Kyle Kuzma knocked down a corner three through contact, but Jokic answered with a one-legged jumper to put the Lakers down 29-27 after the first quarter.
L.A. had a sloppy showing to begin the second as their live-ball turnovers allowed Denver to go on a 7-0 run and extend their lead 36-27. Things just got worse for the Lakers as several consecutive defensive breakdowns let to wide-open looks that the Nuggets connected on, giving them their first double-digit advantage.
Dwight Howard provided some energy off the bench, but the Nuggets’ defense locked down the Lakers. Just as the deficit began to swell, Anthony Davis kept the team afloat with James on the bench and a late run saw the Lakers trailing 63-53 at halftime.
It marked the first time in the Nuggets’ past seven playoff games that they held a lead going into the locker room.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel inserted Howard instead of JaVale McGee to open the third and his presence and energy led to a quick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 5-0 run. However, the Nuggets were able to answer thanks a stagnant Laker offense and pushed their lead back to 12.
The lack of defensive effort continued for Los Angeles as they allowed Denver to score nearly every time down the floor. The Nuggets never let up and the Lakers found themselves down 93-75 entering the fourth.
Even with James and Davis on the floor, the Lakers were unable to muster up much resistance and saw Jamal Murray throw down a transition dunk that forced another early timeout. However, L.A. came roaring back, going on a massive run to bring it back to single digits.
While the Lakers miraculously made it a game, the Nuggets were able to regain their composure and Murray nailed a pair of threes to ice the game.
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