Jamal Murray scored 37 points as the Denver Nuggets routed the Los Angeles Lakers 119-108 on Saturday, May 20, to move within one win of reaching the NBA finals for the first time in the team’s history.
A dazzling first-half shooting performance from Denver point guard Murray laid the foundation for a deserved road win that leaves the Nuggets with a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals series.
Murray finished with 37 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Nikola Jokic added 24 points – including 15 in the fourth quarter – to steer Denver to victory. Anthony Davis led the Lakers scoring with 28 points while James and Austin Reaves added 23 points apiece.
A typically star-studded crowd with the likes of Hollywood actors Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington sitting at courtside were unable to inspire the Lakers, who now must win game four on Monday to avoid a clean sweep.
The Nuggets took control with a dominant first-quarter performance that saw Murray pick up where he had left off in game two with another devastating shooting clinic. Murray, who scored 23 points in the fourth quarter of Denver’s game two win on Thursday, rattled in 17 points in the first on Saturday in a dream start for the Nuggets.
While Los Angeles managed to contain Jokic effectively, the Lakers had no answer to Murray, who was eight-of-10 from the field as the Nuggets surged into a double-digit lead. Murray’s early success rate was more than the entire Lakers line-up combined, with the hosts shooting only 7-of-23 in the first quarter.
Lonnie Walker managed to trim the Nuggets’ lead to 10 points at 30-20 with a three-pointer as the first quarter drew to a close, but fittingly Murray responded for Denver with a deft fadeaway that made it 32-20 at the buzzer.
The Lakers however came roaring back in the second, opening with a 10-4 run that cut the Denver lead to six points. While Murray continued to threaten, draining a three-pointer to restore Denver’s double-digit advantage at 51-41, the Lakers refused to roll over.
Reaves got the hosts to within five with a superb driving layup that made it 55-50 and shortly afterward drew a foul from Jokic that sent him to the free throw line to tie it at 55-55. The Nuggets however restored their advantage in the final seconds of the first half, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope draining a corner three to make it 58-55 at the break.
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An attritional third quarter saw Denver struggling to generate the offensive fluency that marked their first-half display, and an out-of-sorts Jokic was subbed out after picking up his fourth foul with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Lakers were unable to cash in on the absence of the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player however, and Denver led 84-82 heading into the final frame. Jokic returned at the start of the fourth and the Nuggets asserted their dominance once more, scoring with regularity to pull away for a convincing victory.