Lakers Up 3-1

The Nuggets aren't going away, and everyone knows it.

Jim Rome
September 25, 2020 - 9:27 am
Dwight Howard

USA Today

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Here’s what we’re not going to do when talking about the Lakers-Nuggets series – we’re not going to be saying that the Nuggets are down 3-1, so they’ve got the Lakers right where they want them. Nope. Not going to do that. Just because everyone else on twitter made that joke, doesn’t mean you should. Be better than that.

I know that Denver has come back from down 3-1 in each of the last two series. We all know that. And I also know that Denver would much rather be up 3-1 than down 3-1. And the thing is, they really could be up 3-1 right now. That’s how close this series is.

Which is why Laker Nation, you better not be gloating and running off at the mouth too much right now. Because you cannot tell me you weren’t sweating that. That is the hardest 3-1 lead you will ever take in a series.

Because Denver is giving LA everything they can handle, at both ends, and then some. Last night, Jamal Murray did it again. He’s gone to a superstar level in the bubble and last night was another superstar night.

Don’t believe me? Then you clearly did not see that shot in the first half. And if you did, you’ll want to see it again, and again, and again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this shot and every time, I’m still amazed. Roll it.

He took off, looking for a right handed dunk, saw LeBron going up, switched from a right handed dunk to a left handed up and under layup. And from the moment that went in, people were comparing it to the Jordan shot from years ago. Let’s be clear about this shot – that wasn’t the MJ shot, that was the JM shot. And the JM shot was better than the MJ shot. Seriously. That’s how good it was.

And as crazy as that was, I’m not sure it’s his best shot in the bubble. Because he also had that 360 against the Jazz.

But Murray wasn’t done blowing minds. There a shot over Anthony Davis with 7 minutes to go in the game.

I’m telling you, every night this guy is doing something. He is must-see TV. That is the class of player he’s moved into in Orlando. He is absolutely fearless and when he’s in the zone, he can do things you’ve never seen before.

Normally, you have a shot like that one in the first half and then the one over AD and that’s an incredible night. You can pack it up and have those highlights forever. But he wasn’t done. He came back roughly thirty seconds later and scored again. 

If you’re a Laker fan, how hard were you gripping at that point? Because you had a three-point lead, but that was a tenuous lead, especially with Murray going off the way he was. There was absolutely no way to stop him. You play that kind of defense and he’s making those circus shots, you just have to shake his hand and come back for Game 5.

Or you can do one other thing. You can put LeBron on him down the stretch. That’s what the Lakers did. As Frank Vogel said after the game, “LeBron asked for the assignment.”

With LA up by four and just over five minutes to go, LeBron asked for the assignment. And took it. Again, this is a 17 year vet, guarding a guy who’s just entering his prime. And not just a 17-year vet, by 17 years in and five inches taller and about forty pounds heavier. And LeBron did the job. Held to 0 for 2 from the field the rest of the way. 

Picking up Murray at winning time is the ultimate sign of respect from LeBron. That is the very definition of game respecting game. And as LeBron said afterwards, there is a lot to respect: "The kid is special. He has an array of shots. Triple threat from the 3, midrange and also in the paint. For me, it's just trusting my defensive keys. Trusting my study of film. Trusting personnel. And living with the results. I told my teammates that I had him and everyone else can kind of stay at bay and stay home. I was able to get a couple stops, and we were able to rebound the basketball, which is the most important thing."

And speaking of rebounding, you want to know the difference in the game last night? It wasn’t LeBron picking up Jamal Murray it was Dwight Howard picking up the Lakers. Yeah, I said it.

Dwight David Howard II got the start last night and he was a monster, especially in the first half. He had a double-double in the first half and kept the Lakers in front. Without him, the Lakers would be losing in the first half and probably lose that game.

What I’m saying is, Dwight Howard is getting my game ball. That is such a wild thing to be saying. I’ve said it before, but Dwight’s rejuvenation in LA has been one of the most incredible turnarounds of all time. And Dwight turning into the ultimate heel in this series has been one of the most hilarious moments of all time.

But last night, he wasn’t the heel. He was just a rebounding machine. 12 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. He had eight rebounds in the first quarter alone, and four of them were offensive rebounds, and they all led to putbacks.

As LeBron said: “Dwight was a beast.” He sure as hell was. Treat yourself to an extra pack or ten of Twizzlers big man, you earned it.

And LA is going to need that beast for the rest of this series, no matter how long it lasts. Because Denver will not go quietly. They are not going to pack up before Game 5 and take the gentleman’s sweep. They’re going to fight with everything they have. And Laker fans know that. They know this is the hardest they’ve had to battle for a 3-1 lead and they could just as easily be down 3-1 as they are up 3-1. And they know it. Just as they know Denver’s not going away. The Nuggets are pure class, and tough as hell. And now everyone knows it.