Lakers on Verge of Another Nuggets Sweep

Photo of LeBron James offering inside into navigating the post game after Lakers loss 112-105 to Denver.

Following his 285th playoff appearance, which exceeded the collective playoff experience of the entire starting lineup of the Denver Nuggets, LeBron James offered insights into navigating the postseason after the Lakers’ 112-105 loss in Game 3. With Denver now holding a commanding 3-0 series lead, James underscored the importance of handling pressure in playoff scenarios.

Alongside Anthony Davis, James expressed confidence in their capacity to perform under pressure, as they combined for 59 points. James contributed 26 points, six rebounds, and nine assists, while Davis led the Lakers with 33 points and 15 rebounds.

However, James did not extend similar praise to the rest of the Lakers team, who were overshadowed by a determined Denver squad. Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. both scored over 20 points, complementing the performances of Nikola Jokic, who tallied 29 points and 15 rebounds, and Jamal Murray, who contributed 22 points and nine assists.

When asked if the Lakers were affected by the Nuggets’ performance, James stated, “That’s best left for individuals to address. It’s challenging for me to guess their emotions. I can’t read minds.”

Regrettably, Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell didn’t shed light on the issue, opting not to speak to reporters after his scoreless Game 3 performance, shooting 0-for-7 from the field (0-for-6 from 3-point range), as confirmed by a team representative.

Reflecting on his extensive partnership with Davis, James noted, “Davis and I have been teammates for six years. We’ve tasted success and come close to it. We’ve played countless games together and grasp what it takes to win, even championships. It’s an achievable goal.”

Nevertheless, the Lakers face a formidable challenge against the Nuggets, who have now defeated them in 11 consecutive games, making it the fifth-longest active streak between two franchises. Unlike other teams on that list — Detroit, Houston, Charlotte, and Portland — who haven’t vied for championships recently, the Lakers are struggling to find success.

In Game 3, the Lakers showed glimpses of promise, jumping to an 8-0 lead that prompted the Nuggets to call a timeout less than two minutes into the game, sparking the home crowd. However, akin to their leads in Games 1 and 2, the Lakers relinquished their advantage, allowing Denver to outscore them 34-22 in the third quarter.

Throughout the series, the Nuggets have dominated the Lakers in third quarters, outscoring them by 31 points, while the Lakers have managed to outscore Denver by only 11 points in the other nine quarters.

Guard Austin Reaves, the lone Lakers player besides James and Davis to reach double-digit points, admitted, “Our performance in the third quarter has been unacceptable.” Despite Reaves contributing 22 points, with 10 of those points coming late in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets had already taken control, the Lakers’ bench and coaching staff seemed resigned to defeat.

However, with Game 4 set for Saturday, the Lakers have one last chance to rally at home. Davis emphasized the importance of improving rebounding, defensive transition, and offensive output, stressing the need for more points.

Currently, the Lakers are averaging just 102.3 points per game in the series, a significant drop from their scoring average of 124.4 points in their last 15 regular-season victories and play-in tournament leading up to the Denver series.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets remain vigilant and focused as the series unfolds. Jokic observed that each game presents a greater challenge, despite the Lakers holding substantial leads, such as a 20-point advantage in Denver and a 12-point lead in the first half of the current game.

The repetition of facing the same opponent can pose difficulties, emphasizing the importance of maintaining focus and commitment to their style of play. It’s essential to remain authentic to their approach, particularly in light of their recent successes, and guard against complacency, as momentum can shift rapidly. At this juncture, the Lakers can only hope to identify weaknesses in the Nuggets’ tactics to extend their postseason.

James emphasized the necessity of adopting a one-game-at-a-time mentality. With each loss equating to elimination, their focus is on securing victory in each contest. Their objective is to force a Game 5, and then they will reassess their situation. Despite the challenges, they maintain belief and continue playing until their postseason journey reaches its conclusion.

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