The Lakers are the first team to advance to the 2020 NBA finals, after tonight’s 117 – 107 victory. The Lakers closed out the series in 5 and now await the victor of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Right from the start, it was more of the same problems for Denver. Silly turnovers and unnecessary fouls, particularly from Jokic, made a big difference in the game. Looking at the box score, the differential doesn’t seem obvious, both teams had the same amount of fouls and L.A. actually had more turnovers. The turnovers always seemed to come at the worse times for the Nuggets though and the silly fouls came back to haunt them. Jokic picked up a foul in the first few minutes, trying to stop a transition layup. His presence of the court is more important than 2 points on the scoreboard. Murray fouled Danny Green on a jump shot. Danny Green! The Nuggets really needed to defend with their feet, not their hands.
With that being said, they still managed to keep themselves in the game, basically from start to finish. They had an impressive 21-8 run late in the third and actually took a 2 point lead. Every time it looked like the game was over, the Nuggets seemed to find a way back into the contest. LeBron and the Lakers were not to be denied though. When it was “go” time, LeBron lead the way and closed the series out. You have to wonder how much closer the game would be if Murray was 100%. Still, the same could be said if Davis wasn’t hurt. We could talk hypotheticals all day. Let’s look at some of the player performances.
Obviously, we have to start with the massive triple/double game from LeBron James. 38 points on 60% shooting, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. When it was time to finish this game, he put the Lakers on his back and carried them over the line. I don’t know what is the most impressive thing about his game tonight. I loved his scoring efficiency. I’m a big rebound guy. I also loved his defensive efforts. Just an all around great game from LeBron.
AD had 27 points on 50% shooting. Howard had 9/9. Caruso only had 11, but he was dominant early and finished with 71% efficiency on his shots. It wouldn’t be right to not mention Danny Green. As you know, I usually give him a hard time but his defense was exceptional tonight. I know he is a good defender, but tonight he was next level. He also scored 11 points, 50% shooting from 3.
It was scoring by committee for the Nuggets, which was handy, considering the struggles of Jokic and Murray. I’ll start on those two and then move on. Jokic fouled too much again and kept himself out of this game for large chunks of it. It’s so frustrating, because it really looked like the Lakers didn’t have an answer for him. Jokic finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Imagine what he could of done with another 10 minutes of playtime. Murray seemed to struggle with injuries tonight, but tried his best to remain engaged. Murray had 19 points, 4 rebounds and 8 assists. He didn’t hit a 3 tonight, but shot 41% overall. I don’t think it would be fair to criticise him at all, considering he played 43 minutes on a sore leg. His effort was absolutely amazing and he did all he could do. Murray really showed the world who he is this playoffs.
With Denver’s two superstars taken out of the contest, it was up to the other guys. For the most part, they kept their team in it. Grant had 20 points and 9 rebounds, although he shot the ball at a pretty poor percentage. Millsap had 13, but also a very low percentage. Morris had 10 points and 7 assists. Plumlee actually had played pretty well when he took the court tonight. He finished with 7 points (42%) and 5 rebounds. Michael Porter Jr. continued to show how high his ceiling could be, I was surprised to see he finished with only 10 points. It felt like he had more.
I want to give full credit to the winning team, like I always do. the Lakers shot the ball at a pretty impressive 55% for the night. They also had a very impressive 8 blocks, including 2 each for Howard and Green. Other than that, the box score is pretty even, which is weird, because it felt like L.A. dominated a lot of it. It felt like they would of had a +20 in points in the paint. They only out-rebounded the Nuggets by 7, and Denver actually had more offensive boards. The Lakers ended the night with 3 more turnovers as well. Again, I don’t want to take anything away from L.A., but I feel like if Murray was healthy, tonight might have been a different story. However, he wasn’t and this isn’t. Lakers win!