DUMAGUETE CITY, Negros Oriental, Philippines — 2019 All-star Nikola Jokic and 2017 7th overall pick Jamal Murray paved the way for Denver Nuggets in taking game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers 114-106.
The Serbian center waxed hot from the field in the first half.
Jokic ended the opening quarter with a tough fadeaway shot against no less than 5x NBA All-Defensive first team member Lebron James.
In the 2nd quarter, he nailed a tough turn-around jumper ala Dirk Nowitzki over the 7-foot-5 wingspan of Lakers power forward Anthony Davis.
The Nuggets walked into the dugout with a comfortable 10-point lead 63-53 to end the half.
“No lead is safe especially a team like that (Lakers),” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said during the post-match press conference on the Lakers ability to bounce back from a huge deficit.
Led by Lebron James who finished the game with 30 big points, the purple and gold made a huge effort to come back into the ballgame in the 2nd half.
Point guard Rajon Rondo’s solid defense in the final quarter was on-point. They were able to capitalize Denver’s 9 turnovers in the last quarter alone.
The veteran talisman out of Kentucky orchestrated the Lakers offense and was able to bag eight assists.
However, their comeback was a little too late.
Their 19-to-2 run in the end was put to waste.
Despite the heroics of James and Rondo, Nikola Jokic’s terrific performance and Jamal Murray’s clutch baskets in the tail end was too much for the Lakers.
Murray sank in the late dagger trey to close-out the game and received high praise from his coach after the game.
“Jamal is a complete player,” Malone told.
Another player who caught the eye of the Nuggets coach was Jerami Grant.
“I like Jerami Grant guarding Anthony Davis, I like Jerami Grant guarding Lebron James,” Malone said on the defensive assignment given to the athletic forward.
The huge gap in the rebounding department proved to be the difference in the game.
The Lakers were out-rebounded by 19 in the match.
The trio of Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, and Anthony Davis was only able to tally a total of four rebounds.
Davis, who poured out 27 big points was visibly tired and worn-out in the 2nd half.
He averaged a total of 38 minutes in the first three games and lead all the Lakers players. Danny Green, who was one of the Lakers’ target during the off-season due to his outside shooting continues to fire blanks from the field.
Obviously, the Lakers cannot play a catch-up basketball with playoff experienced Nuggets. “We couldn’t be less careless,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game.
Denver will try to even the series in game 4 on Friday, 9am Philippine time.
Nuggets (114) – Murray 28, Grant, 26, Jokic 22, Morris, 14, Porter Jr. 9, Harris 7, Millsap 6, Craig 2, Plumlee 0. Lakers (106) – James 30, Davis 27, Caldwell-Pope 12, Kuzma 11, Rondo 9, McGee 4, Green 4, Howard 4, Morris 3, Caruso 2.