NBA Playoffs – playoffs – working day 35
At various points in Game 2 of the series, the Lakers seemed to have found the recipe for shutting down Nikola Jokić. The team seemed intent on derailing the Serbian center, who has recorded a triple double in nearly all of his playoff games this season. A double tag kept him at bay for several minutes, but Jokić managed to spark another night of basketball that is a true nightmare for his opponents. Although the Lakers neutralized the European at times, they have realized that Jamal Murray is another obstacle on their way to a new ring. The Canadian point guard was key in Denver’s 103-108 win. He scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, putting the Nuggets within two wins of their first NBA Finals.
Darvin Ham, the Lakers’ coach, said Tuesday that he wasn’t concerned about his team’s performance in the West opener. Jokić then scored 34 points. Among the adjustments that Ham made for tonight was a double mark with Anthony Davis and Jarred Vanderbilt that reduced spaces to the Serb. This only had four shots to the basket in the first quarter, which ended tied with 27 points per side. The Nuggets turned over five turnovers in the period (15 in the entire game to 12 for the Lakers). By beefing up the guard over the center, another player had enough room to shine. It was 26-year-old Canadian Jamal Murray who is out for revenge after an injury against Golden State forced him to miss the entire 2021-2022 season. Tonight he had 37 points and made 6 of 14 3-pointers.
The dynamics of the second clash was the opposite of the first game. Denver controlled the vast majority of Tuesday’s game until the Lakers shutdown brought them close to a comeback. Now it was those of Lebron James who imposed their conditions thanks to their defensive coverage and valuable collaboration from Rui Hachimura’s bench. The player of Japanese origin had a dream first half, hitting the seven shots he made inside the box and one of two three-pointers. He scored 17 of his 21 points on the night in the first two quarters. James, on the other hand, closed the first half with 10 points (he had 22 on the night) and Austin Reaves with nine (he finished with 22).
Anthony Davis, a fundamental player for the Lakers to repeat the ring achieved in the Orlando bubble, was slow to carburete. He has shone defending his own paint with three blocks and 13 boards, but he had left something to be desired on offense. He found a rhythm in the second half, where he recorded 11 of his 18 points. In the first game, Davis and Lebron scored a combined 66 points. This Thursday there were 40.
But the Lakers, who came to have an advantage of eleven, made several errors that prevented widening the difference. James fumbled a ball in the air as he set up for one of his impressive dunks. It was an anticlimactic conclusion to a play that had started with a steal and picked up speed with a counter-attack led by the team’s star. Later, Davis would lose a ball in the enemy paint five points down with a minute to play. The mistake was corrected by Arkansas sensation Reaves, who hit a 3-pointer seconds later.
Murray’s performance fueled Denver’s victory, which came from less to more. The home team displayed its lethality from the back three, a recipe that was effective for Golden State in the series against the Lakers. This Thursday, the Nuggets hit seven triples in the fourth quarter. Four of these came from the hands of Murray, who played 42 minutes at intense pace. His performance was so overwhelming that he managed to outshine Jokić, who didn’t score a single basket in the closing chapter. This did not prevent the Serb from extending his winning record in the playoffs. He had his 13th postseason triple double with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. The two-time MVP seems unstoppable. The Lakers will have to show on Saturday at home that they have the tools to stop him. It’s not enough with him, you also have to deactivate Jamal Murray.
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