Nuggets 114 Lakers 106

This team doesn't lie down.

Jim Rome
September 23, 2020 - 9:56 am
Jamal Murray

USA Today

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The old saying in the NBA is that a series doesn’t start until someone loses on their home floor. BUT, in the bubble that doesn’t apply, because there really is no home floor. But I can tell you this: the Nuggets-Lakers series would’ve been pretty much over if Denver lost last night.

Notice what I said there: pretty much over. That is the level of respect I have for the Nuggets. Any other team falls down 3-0 in a series to the team with the best record in the conference and I’m saying that series is over.

But not the Nuggets. I’m never going to rule them out. Denver is not out until Denver is on a plane back to Denver and even then, I’m only going to believe they’re out when the plane lands and the players go their separate ways. That’s how tough that crew is. 

That’s why it was ridiculous for anyone to be saying that LA had won that series when Anthony Davis hit the game-winner in Game 2.

And that’s why it was ridiculous for the Lakers to show up for huge chunks of last night’s game like they’d already won the series. Too many turnovers, too many fouls, and not nearly enough rebounds.

And yes, I know that they didn’t shoot well from three. That’ll happen. But the turnovers, fouls, and lack of hitting the glass isn’t an off-night. It’s about focus, execution, and effort. And the Lakers were lacking in all three categories at times last night. 

You can’t get outrebounded by 19 and expect to win. Not against these Denver Nuggets. And not when Nikola Jokic is putting on the clinic that he was putting on in the first half.

But don’t get it twisted. This wasn’t about Joker bailing them out with crazy shots. This was about a team that came in with a plan and they executed that plan. Michael Malone had Jerami Grant playing the five at one point. And not only did he have Jerami Grant playing the five at one point, the Lakers doubled Jerami Grant in the post at one point.

And by the way, Jerami Grant was damn good last night. 26 points good. Monte Morris had 14 points off the bench. Michael Porter Jr had nine points, six rebounds, two assists, and two steals. You can call these guys “the others” if you’d like, because they aren’t named Joker or Jamal, but these guys showed up huge last night.

And so did Jamal. 28 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, two steals. And had a filthy dunk that put Denver up 20 with 10 and half to go in the fourth quarter. And just when it seemed like he Lakers would live to fight another day…..they woke the hell up. And went on an insane run. The Lakers went from napping it out in-game to locking down and running. They switched up the defense, went to a zone, and suddenly Rajon Rondo was everywhere.

He had one steal. Then another. Then another. And in between, the Lakers were getting out in transition, and making life very easy for themselves... By playing downhill. 

Suddenly, instead of a 20-point Nugget blowout, it was a three-point game. And Denver was reeling. They were leaning against the ropes, getting pummeled and seemingly incapable of defending themselves. The ref leaned in and took a long look.

Because we all know how it goes in situations like this. You know how it went for Portland and Houston against these Lakers.   The Lakers shut you down on offense, blast you with a huge run, and before you can figure what the hell just happened, the Lakers have run you right off the court.

Admit it – you thought that. You were watching that game and thinking, yep, LA is going to do what they do, Denver had a nice run in the bubble, but they’re gassed. If you were a Laker fan, you were thinking about how many more car flags you should buy and making plans to head down to Figueroa to get a good spot for the parade.

Except that didn’t happen. Because Denver isn’t Portland and it’s not Houston. And it sure as hell isn’t the LA Clippers. This Denver team was not blowing a 20-point second half lead and they were not blowing this game.

Not with Jamal Murray on the floor. And not with Jamal Murray hitting this shot with a four point lead.

The Lakers had a 21-4 run? Cool. Here’s an 8-0 run in less than ninety seconds. And just as the Lakers were gassing out, Murray was gassing up. When the pressure was at its highest, when it would be easier to let go of the rope, instead…he stepped up as he has, time and time again. 

Joker in the first half, Murray to close it out. And Grant, Morris, and Porter in the middle. I will say it again, because some of you still aren’t getting it. The Nuggets aren’t just tough, they are flat out good. Don’t buy into that narrative that they’re just a bunch of scrappers who are happy to be there. They are a bunch of scrappers and they are happy to be there and they have a pair of superstars.

And they have belief. A ton of belief. They have belief by the truckload. They could be up 2-1 in this series. And you know they know it. They know they’ve outplayed the Lakers in the last two games. And they aren’t going to stop now. They aren’t looking for a pat on the head. They aren’t looking for a participation trophy. They are looking for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

And if you want to stop them, you need to run a stake through their heart. Just showing and waiting for them to lie down and die isn’t going to get it done. It. Just ask the Clippers.