L.A. is one game away from elimination
After several pre-deadline trades gave them a new lease on life, the Los Angeles Lakers are officially on life support. They lost Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals to the Denver Nuggets, 119-108, on Saturday, and it is now clear they’re seriously outmatched, as they trail the series 3-0.
Early on, the Lakers were competitive, taking a 9-7 lead. But as he was in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Jamal Murray was a flamethrower. He shot 8-of-10 in the first quarter and scored 30 first-half points, and he seemingly couldn’t miss, as Denver went up by as many as 14 points.
The Lakers chipped away and tied the score just before halftime before Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a 3-pointer to put them down by three at intermission. It looked like there was an opening for L.A. when Nikola Jokic got his fourth foul and had to sit down with 7:24 left in the third quarter, but it couldn’t capitalize, as it won the third by only one point.
A 13-0 run by Denver in the fourth quarter was the decisive juncture of the game, and the Lakers simply couldn’t recover, as they were dealt their first home loss since late March.
When Murray went strangely cold in the third quarter, Nikola Jokic heated up and finished with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting, eight assists and six rebounds after going 2-of-8 in the first half. Off the bench, Bruce Brown was a problem with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.
No NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven, and there are no signs that the Lakers can become the first to do so.
Anthony Davis: A
After shooting just 4-of-15 in Game 2 on Thursday, Davis bounced back very well, as he usually does after a bad game. He started off slow with his shooting, but he ended up going 11-of-18 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free throw line to score 28 points. Davis was also a beast on the boards by grabbing 18 rebounds, and although L.A. lost, it actually outrebounded the Nuggets by six thanks to him.
The superstar big man didn’t make his usual impact defensively, but he did block two shots. The Lakers’ strategy of having him as a help defender on Jokic didn’t work too well, as the two-time MVP shot 5-of-7 in the final period.
LeBron James: B-minus/B
James’ overreliance on the 3-point shot, as well as his decision-making on such shots, is hurting the Lakers and is one reason they’re down 3-0 in this series. He did hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter, giving him his first made treys of the series, and he added another trey in the fourth quarter. But on the night, he was 3-of-9 from 3-point range and 8-of-19 overall.
When he wasn’t jacking up long shots, James was effective at times, going 5-of-10 on 2-point attempts to finish with 23 points. He did dish out 12 assists and grabbed seven rebounds, but he hasn’t played up to his standards for most of this series thus far.
Austin Reaves: A-
Reaves has played very well in this series, and he has given L.A. a chance to win the first three games of this series. He shot 7-of-10 overall and 3-of-5 from downtown while making all six of his free throw attempts, giving him 23 points, 20 of them coming in the first three quarters. The undrafted guard also added seven rebounds and five assists.
The one issue Reaves had in this contest was taking care of the ball. He committed four turnovers, two of them coming on very bad passes. But he is making a very strong case that even if he commands lots of money this summer, the Lakers should pay him whatever it takes to keep him on their roster.
Jarred Vanderbilt: D
Vanderbilt again got the assignment of covering Murray, and he simply couldn’t slow him down. Elsewhere, he didn’t make an impact, shooting just 1-of-4 from the floor and getting one rebound in 14 minutes.
His lack of ability to hit 3-pointers, and his unreliability in terms of catching the ball and finishing in the paint or near the basket have made him somewhat of a liability at times.
D’Angelo Russell: D-minus
Russell has been flat-out bad in this series. He made his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, but he missed his next three and went to the bench with 3:09 left in the first quarter. He did not play again in the first half, and when he came back in for the third quarter, he missed all four of his attempts.
He totaled just 20 minutes and shot 1-of-8 from the field, giving him three points, four assists and three rebounds, as well as three turnovers. His poor play is a big reason L.A. hasn’t won a game yet in this series.
Rui Hachimura: B-minus/B
Hachimura didn’t do too badly in this game. He shot 5-of-12 overall, but he helped the team by getting six rebounds and containing Jokic effectively at times. He failed to contain the Joker down the stretch, however, which contributed to the deadly 13-0 run that did L.A. in.
Dennis Schroder: C-plus
Schroder had some stretches of effective defense on Murray. The German native pressured the Nuggets star when he was bringing the ball upcourt and remained close to him.
But Schroder didn’t give the Lakers much offensively, going 2-of-5 from the field and missing both of his 3-point attempts while adding only one assist and one steal.
Lonnie Walker IV: B
Walker gave L.A. a lift off the bench, going 2-of-5 overall and 2-of-4 from 3-point range to score nine points, plus two assists and one rebound in 19 minutes.
Malik Beasley, Troy Brown Jr., Max Christie, Shaquille Harrison, Tristan Thompson: Incomplete
All five came in for the final minute of the game with the outcome decided. Brown scored two points on a layup, but the other four went scoreless.
Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire