FOX Sports NBA Analyst
A lot has been said about the Los Angeles Lakers’ defense in this playoff, and rightly so. But the Denver Nuggets proved Thursday night that they also have some D in their DNA.
Despite falling as much as 11 points behind, the Nuggets kept their home playoff record pristine and took a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers led by three points early in the fourth quarter, but the combination of Jamal Murray’s fire catchers and the Nuggets denying nearly every LA shot gave Denver a 32-24 lead in the final 12 minutes. Bruce Brown, who took the ball from LeBron James as he sped across the field in the final seconds, was a fitting encore.
“We’re proud of our defense in the fourth quarter,” said Michael Porter Jr.
After struggling in the first three quarters, Murray hit big threes late on and finished the game with 37 points, the highest score. Murray missed seven of his first nine threes but managed four of five in the fourth quarter, scoring 23 points.
Statistics you should know: James was 0-on-6 from 3-point range, including 0-on-4 in the second half.
Course of the game: Murray’s 3-pointer 9-21 in the fourth quarter and Nikola Jokic on the bench gave Denver their first lead since the first quarter, 84-83.
Next come the nuggets: The Nuggets led 2-0 against the Phoenix Suns and returned to Denver in a draw. Coach Mike Malone said his team forgot to pack their defense for the trip. The level of defense they showed in Game 2 will be key to give themselves a chance in Los Angeles.
Next for the Lakers: The team’s two biggest stars, James and Anthony Davis, were underwhelming. Davis missed 11 of his 15 shots for 18 points overall, and James fumbled the ball wide on a breakaway dunk attempt and thwarted a reverse layup in the closing minutes. They need to be bigger factors in Game 3. Bright spot: Rui Hachimura scored eight out of ten for 21 points.
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Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books: Rebound, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease at a young age, and Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast called On The Ball with Ric Bucher. Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.
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