Anthony Davis sparked the Los Angeles Lakers to an early lead and LeBron James played lockdown defense late on Jamal Murray in a 114-108 win over the Denver Nuggets to take a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Davis got to work right away, scoring at will against Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant to have 12 of the Lakers’ first 14 points. Dwight Howard started in place of JaVale McGee and provided a lift on both ends with his rebounding and putbacks while also managing to stay out of foul trouble.
LeBron James had a strong showing midway through the quarter, pushing the ball and knocking down his first 3-point attempt to extend Los Angeles’ lead. James and Davis combined for 24 points, tied for their most combined in a first quarter, putting the Lakers up 37-30.
It was a stronger start in the second as L.A. was able to limit Denver’s bench, while James’ ball movement led to some wide-open looks. However, the Nuggets came back with a quick 8-3 run off of a couple of defensive breakdowns that forced a timeout by Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
Nikola Jokic found his stroke from the outside, knocking down a pair of threes but L.A. managed to stay in front thanks to Kyle Kuzma who was decisive shooting and cutting to the basket. Murray and Jokic led a late comeback to narrow the deficit, but the Lakers still went into the half up 60-55.
Jerami Grant continued his hot shooting from Game 3, burying a three to cut the Laker to two, but triples from Davis, Danny Green, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gave them some breathing room. Denver immediately responded with a mini run, but L.A. and James battled back to keep them at arm’s length.
Rajon Rondo was a major spark as he made plays on the offensive end to help push the lead back to 11. However, a sloppy close to the period that ended in a Michael Porter Jr. three left the purple and gold with a small 87-84 advantage.
Once again, the Nuggets pulled within one but the Lakers showed some fight by getting into the paint to draw some shooting fouls. Things took a turn for the worse when Davis appeared to turn his ankle, but he stayed in the game and nailed one of two free throws.
The defensive intensity picked up in the closing minutes, with James taking on the challenge of guarding Murray. Although Davis again was relatively quiet on the boards, he secured two offensive rebounds late in the game to help the Lakers preserve just enough momentum.
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