DELTA — The wager the Lakers placed at the NBA’s early-February trade deadline was the same one they placed in the summer of 2019 when they essentially sacrificed everything to assemble one of the league’s top-tier tandems.
That wager, which paid off with a championship but failed due to recurrent injuries, was that the Lakers would have a chance as long as Anthony Davis and LeBron James were present on the pitch when it counted the most.
The Lakers changed their roster, improved their depth, and acquired more players capable of playmaking, defending, and scoring. It’s the reason they came to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday.
It wasn’t because James and Davis didn’t have enough support, though, as the audience supported the top-seeded Nuggets during a fourth-quarter rally while waving white towels and screaming “Beat L.A.”
The Nuggets stormed back as the Lakers became buried beneath a tsunami of momentum they couldn’t stop, and that’s a big part of why the Lakers lost 108-103.
James missed back-to-back threes to begin the fourth quarter as the Lakers sought to get to the basket to help create a buffer against Denver’s run. Since Game 1 against Memphis, he has yet to make a fourth-quarter field goal this series.
Austin Reaves stated, “He can shoot as much as he wants.” LeBron James is him. He is just interested on winning.
James made 19 attempts and scored 22 points, missing all six of his threes. Davis made four of 15 shots for 18 points. Rui Hachimura scored 21 points off the bench and Reaves scored 22.
If you aren’t worn out in the postseason,… stated James. Everyone is worn out.
The Lakers’ two most prominent players weren’t even close to the aggressive, rim-hunting combo that almost won Game 1 for the Lakers because they were worn out by their combined efforts against Nikola Jokic on one end. They struggled throughout Game 2’s pivotal moments.
After the game, Lakers coach Darvin Ham stated, “We missed some pretty good looks.”
mental mistakes. shot errors. leg weights. The two players the Lakers most desperately needed committed too many errors as Denver rallied to keep the home-court advantage,
Ball Arena has not seen a Nuggets playoff loss this playoffs, with Denver making seven of their thirteen shots, including five straight threes, in the fourth quarter.
Some of the mistakes were more subtle; for example, Dennis Schroder should have held for the final shot rather than putting up a three with eight seconds left in the third quarter. Denver went in transition after the three attempts were stopped, and on an offensive putback from Jokic that Davis goaltended, Denver scored.
Some were puzzling, such as when James threw the ball away while attempting a two-handed reverse slam, converting what would have been a certain two points into a turnover.
James exclaimed, “That stinks that ball squirted out of my hands. “… Unforced error. Horrible.”
And despite doing half of his damage from the free-throw line, Davis was unable to get to the easy baskets that had helped him establish a rhythm for so much of the playoffs.
The terrible plays that occur during a basketball game might happen at any point in the game. They may choose several from their side, I’m sure,” Ham stated following the game. “So, it was just — things have to happen during an NBA game, especially one that is fiercely contested like the Western Conference finals, in particular these two teams.
You just need to have a short memory in order to move on when a mistake, misstep, or other such event occurs.
The Lakers were in a winning position despite the struggles of their players in the fourth quarter when Jamal Murray’s hot shooting lifted the rim’s top for his colleagues.
In the fourth, Denver hit seven threes. All game, the Lakers only made eight shots. Reaves remarked, “They made shots when they had to.”
Murray scored 37 points in all, including 23 in the fourth quarter. For the second time in the series, Jokic recorded a triple-double by scoring 23 points, pulling down 17 rebounds, and dishing out 12 assists.
“Man, one thing about Jamal is universally known. He only needs to witness one go in. Michael Malone, the coach of the Denver Nuggets, stated, “He got a little mid-range pull-up to go in, kind of looked up to the heavens and that’s all he needed. “Then he’s shooting into a hula hoop,” said the witness.
One of the stars of Game 1 for the Nuggets, Murray, started the game for Vanderbilt, and the Lakers were able to establish their favoured tempo thanks to his length and rebounds.
However, shooting proved a problem, particularly for Davis. After his first made basket was deemed an offensive goaltend, he was unable to build on a strong 40-point effort in Game 1. Instead, his shots either missed or were not counted. I received the same stares, Davis remarked.
Hachimura, a midseason acquisition by the Lakers, continued to make Denver pay for its lack of rim protection by driving straight to the basket on practically every touch. Thankfully, the Lakers had him off the bench. Hachimura scored 17 points on seven shots without missing a shot until the second half.
As a consequence, the Lakers built an 11-point advantage at the half that could have been even larger except for a couple uncharacteristic mistakes.
Despite the Lakers often holding double-digit leads that lasted into the third quarter, Denver stayed in there. The opportunity for easy points was there in front of them, but it seemed like they should have been ahead more since the ball was fumbling too frequently.
Denver shouted, louder than their coach, as the Lakers battled.
He reprimanded everyone who believed the series was over after the Lakers’ comeback in the second half prior to the game. And after the game, with his team up 2-0, he doubled down.
“After you won Game 1 of the playoffs, the Lakers were the only topic of conversation. Let’s face it, that was the national narrative: ‘Hey the Lakers are OK, they’re down 1-0 but they figured something out,’ Malone remarked. “Nobody discussed Nikola’s unprecedented performance.
“He is currently third all-time with 13 triple-doubles. Although what he is doing is amazing, the focus of the story was on the Lakers and their modifications rather than the Nuggets or Nikola.
“So, you put that in your pipe, smoke it, and you comeback and, you know what, we’re going to go up 2-0.”