Once again, the Lakers played the world-champion Nuggets tough. Once again, they fell short at the end.
The Lakers fought back from 15 points down to tie the game in the final minutes. It looked like the Lakers might complete the comeback after Jaxson Hayes, in the middle of one of the best quarters of his career, delivered an unbelievable chase down block on Denver’s Peyton Watson.
But just like in the conference finals last year, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic were too much for the Lakers to overcome. Murray had two consecutive buckets to give Denver the lead, then a double-teamed Nikola Jokic caught Austin Reaves gambling for a steal and found Michael Porter Jr. for a wide-open, back-breaking three.
These teams met in the Western Conference Finals last year, which was an unusually close sweep – the four games were decided by an average of six points each – but still a sweep. The Lakers haven’t beaten Denver since Oct. 30, 2022, when LeBron James and Anthony Davis got 18 points each from Russell Westbrook and Lonnie Walker IV.
Thursday, James hurt the Lakers down the stretch. While he finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, his shooting was rough in the final quarter. James shot 2-for-8, contributing just one assist and one rebound. He did add four points from the foul line.
Los Angeles didn’t make any trades at the deadline, so this is the team they’ll have going forward. They’re good, but as the last six meetings have taught us, not quite as good at the Nuggets.