Jamal Murray scored 37 points, Nikola Jokic added 24 points and eight assists, and the Denver Nuggets rolled to a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals with a 119-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half against his former team for the top-seeded Nuggets, who have never been this close to the NBA Finals in 47 years in the league.
Denver blew a big early lead in Game 3, but made a decisive 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to snap the Lakers’ nine-game home winning streak since March 26, including seven straight victories since the regular season ended.
No team has rallied from a 3-0 playoff series deficit in NBA history. Game 4 is Monday night in Los Angeles.
Anthony Davis had 28 points and 18 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Lakers, who hadn’t lost three straight games since early February. Los Angeles’ prolonged, desperate surge ever since the trade deadline has finally run out of steam against the powerhouse Nuggets, who have won five consecutive playoff games.
LeBron James had 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds for Los Angeles, hitting three 3-pointers after starting the series 0 for 13 from distance. Austin Reaves added 23 points and seven rebounds, but Rui Hachimura was the only other Lakers scorer to crack double figures with 13 points.
Jokic’s streak of four consecutive triple-doubles ended in a fairly quiet game for the two-time MVP. But Murray scored 17 points in a dynamic first quarter following his 23-point fourth quarter two nights ago, and he had 30 points by halftime of Game 3.
Bruce Brown scored 15 points and hit a key 3-pointer down the stretch for the Nuggets before Jokic all but iced it on a 3-pointer with 3:17 to play.
The Lakers’ passionate fans turned out in force for the 17-time champion franchise’s first conference finals games at home since 2010, the year of their last title. Los Angeles tried desperately to get back in the series, with James playing 43 minutes after spraining his left ankle in Game 2 on top of his already sore right foot.
But the Nuggets’ flight to the coast didn’t cool off Murray in the slightest: After lighting up the Lakers to close Game 2, the Canadian guard made his first five shots in Game 3 and poured in 17 points in the first quarter — even while Jokic went scoreless for the second straight quarter.
Murray’s fourth 3-pointer of the night made him 11 of 13 from the field for 26 points midway through the second quarter, scoring more than half of Denver’s points at an unbelievable pace. Reaves and Davis kept the Lakers in it, with Reaves racking up 15 points, three assists and three rebounds in the second quarter alone.
Hachimura’s 3-pointer early in the fourth gave the Lakers their first lead since the opening minutes, but the Nuggets took charge again in a rally highlighted by Brown’s 3-pointer with 7:02 to play, after which he taunted the Lakers’ bench with Los Angeles’ own “Freeze” 3-point celebration.
D’Angelo Russell had another rough game for the Lakers, scoring three points on 1-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes. Russell was the Lakers’ biggest addition in their trade deadline transformation, but the point guard has just 21 points in this three-game series.
Nuggets: Aaron Gordon had seven points in 32 minutes. Michael Porter Jr. had 14 points and 10 rebounds, capped by a 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds.
Lakers: Backup C Mo Bamba missed his ninth consecutive game with a sore left ankle. The team is hopeful Bamba can play at some point in this series. Fans near courtside included Jack Nicholson, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Andy Garcia, Dyan Cannon, Ken Jeong, Joel McHale, LA Kings captain Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty, and Khalil Mack, Derwin James and Sebastian Joseph-Day from the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense.