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Nuggets pull away late to take series lead 3-0 over Lakers

Jamal Murray scored 37 points, Nikola Jokic added 24 points and eight assists, and the Denver Nuggets took a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 119-108 win over the Lakers. Los Angeles Saturday night.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 of 17 second-half points against his former team for the top-seeded Nuggets, who have never been closer to the NBA Finals in 47 years in the league.

Denver took a big lead early in Game 3 but rode a decisive 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to end the Lakers’ nine-game home winning streak since March 26, including seven straight wins since the end of the regular season.

No team has rallied from a 3-0 playoff deficit in NBA history. Game 4 will take place Monday night in Los Angeles.


Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets reacts to a play past Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second quarter of Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Arena on May 20, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Harry Comment/Getty Images)

Anthony Davis had 28 points and 18 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who hadn’t lost three straight since early February. Los Angeles’ protracted and desperate push from the trade deadline finally petered out against the mighty Nuggets, who have won five straight playoff games.

LeBron James had 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds for Los Angeles, hitting three 3-pointers after starting the 0-for-13 series from range. Austin Reaves added 23 points and seven rebounds, but Rui Hachimura was the only other Lakers scorer to beat the double with 13 points.

Jokic’s four-straight triple-double streak ended in a fairly quiet game for the two-time MVP. But Murray scored 17 points in a dynamic first quarter after his 23-point fourth quarter two nights ago, and he had 30 points at halftime in Game 3.

Bruce Brown scored 15 points and hit a key 3-pointer in the stretch for the Nuggets before Jokic froze him on a 3-pointer with 3:17 remaining.

Passionate Lakers fans showed up in force for the 17-time champion franchise’s first Conference Finals on home soil since 2010, the year of their last title. Los Angeles desperately tried to get back into the series, with James playing 43 minutes after spraining his left ankle in Game 2 above his already sore right foot.

But the Nuggets’ flight to the coast didn’t dampen Murray at all: After turning on the Lakers to close out Game 2, the Canadian guard made his first five shots in Game 3 and had 17 first-quarter points – even while Jokic went scoreless for the second quarter in a row.

Mike Malone with Jokic and Murray

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, center, shakes hands with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) and guard Jamal Murray (27) in the second half of Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, May 20, 2023 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Murray’s fourth 3-pointer of the night made it 11 of 13 from the field for 26 points midway through the second quarter, scoring more than half of Denver’s points at an incredible pace. Reaves and Davis kept the Lakers in it, with Reaves racking up 15 points, three assists and three rebounds in the second quarter alone.

Hachimura’s 3-pointer early in the fourth gave the Lakers their first lead since the opening minutes, but the Nuggets regained control in a rally highlighted by Brown’s 3-pointer with 7:02 left, after which he provoked the Lakers’ bench with Los Angeles’ 3-point “Freeze” Celebration.

D’Angelo Russell had another tough game for the Lakers, scoring three points on 1-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes. Russell was the Lakers’ biggest addition in their trade delay transformation, but the point guard has just 21 points in the three-game series.

Bruce Brown three

Bruce Brown #11 of the Denver Nuggets celebrates after making a fourth quarter three-pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Arena on May 20, 2023 in Los Angeles, California . (Harry Comment/Getty Images)



Nuggets: Aaron Gordon had seven points in 32 minutes. Michael Porter Jr. had 14 points and 10 rebounds, capped off with a 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds.

Lakers: Substitute C Mo Bamba missed his ninth straight game with a sore left ankle. The team hopes that Bamba will be able to play at some point in this series. Fans near the pitch included Jack Nicholson, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Andy Garcia, Dyan Cannon, Ken Jeong, Joel McHale, LA Kings captain Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty, and Khalil Mack, Derwin James and Sebastian Joseph-Day of the Los Angeles Chargers defense.


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