The King was in full control in the clutch.
The Lakers managed to win another close battle with the Nuggets last night thanks to another great performance from Anthony Davis, the best playoff performer in the NBA this season, and some excellent late game execution from LeBron James.
Davis led the way for the majority of the game, scoring 34 points on an extremely efficient 80% true shooting. He had another lackluster game rebounding wise, only recording one total rebound prior to the fourth quarter, where he had four rebounds including multiple key boards that gave the Lakers multiple extra possessions.
LeBron did not have his best scoring game. Although he had 26 points, he shot below league average true shooting and had pretty poor shot selection, as Denver forced him to shoot multiple long, mid range shots. However, his impact was felt on the court per usual due to his excellent playmaking ability that was able to get the supporting cast going and his defense, especially down the stretch, was exceptional.
There were some questionable no-calls that were made, such as when LeBron James blocked Jamal Murray’s shot but it looked like he had actually caught his hand. Had this been the case, Denver would’ve gotten two free throws and the outcome might’ve been completely different. However, aside from that one play, LeBron played great defense on Jamal Murray in the clutch.
As the primary defender on Murray in the last five minutes, James contributed to holding him to making no shots in the clutch and in the fourth quarter, James as the closest defender held his matchup to 0/6 shooting from the field according to Second Spectrum. It’s just another indication that LeBron plays lockdown defense when it matters most.
One must also give a tremendous amount of credit to Dwight Howard for the Lakers victory. Although he scored 12 points on 82% true shooting, that isn’t where his impact was felt the most. Dwight was an absolute menace on the glass, recording 11 rebounds, with six of them being on offense. If it wasn’t for his dominance on the glass, the Lakers would not have won this game, for Anthony Davis’ lackluster rebounding night would’ve caught up with them.
For Denver, Jamal Murray was yet again sensational scoring the basketball. Murray recorded 32 points on 68% true shooting while dishing out eight assists. However, he didn’t receive much support in this game.
Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets’ best player, was a bit disappointing in this contest. Although he shot slightly above league average in terms of true shooting and did contribute 16 points, one could’ve expected someone who has been so brilliant throughout this postseason to show a little more aggression in a must-win game.
He did create open looks for his teammates, but clearly not enough. He was solid rebounding wise, but was completely dominated by Dwight Howard on the glass. All in all, it wasn’t a terrible game, but for his standards one must simply expect more out of him.
Michael Porter Jr provided some great scoring relief off the bench, but his defense was just atrocious. He is physically gifted but lacks the IQ to become a great defender in this league at this moment in time. He cannot make any correct reads, cannot properly guard the passing lanes, gambles too much, and gets blown by far too often. It gets hard to watch at times.
Denver as a whole needs to step up. Offensively they’ve been fine, but their defense and rebounding yet again is leading to their downfall in these games.
The Nuggets are facing a 3-1 deficit for the third time this playoffs. The previous two times, they have come back. However, this time they’re facing LeBron James, who is 14-0 when leading 3-1.
Will Denver pull off another miracle, or will their magical run stop here?
Game 5 is Saturday night.