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Preview: Nuggets look to even series against Lakers in Game 4

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The Nuggets look to capitalize on the momentum of a Game 3 win by picking up their second win in the Western Conference Finals.

DENVER NUGGETS VS LOS ANGELES LAKERS, NBA REGULAR SEASON Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

After an exciting Game 3 that saw the Nuggets withstand a violent run by the Lakers in the fourth quarter, both teams will take the court again after one day of rest for Game Four of the Western Conference Finals.

In years past, it was often said that it wasn’t a real series until a team won a road game. With all the games now being played under the shadow of Cinderella’s Castle at DisneyWorld, there aren’t any true home or road games, but the saying is still true as the Nuggets find themselves only down by one game with a chance to draw the series even with a win tonight.

“They played better than us, more aggressive than us through three quarters,” LeBron James said after Game Three. “We’ve got into the penalty in the third quarter with, like, nine-and-a-half minutes to go and we had some turnovers that led to some easy buckets for them. We had 16 turnovers for 25 points and put them to the line 29 times. It’s not going to be winning ingredients for us if we continue to do that.”

Can Nikola Jokic and his young teammates win another game? I don’t know about you, Nuggets fans, but I sure hope that Game 4 looks exactly like Game 3. Here’s what you need to know.

The Basics

When: 7:00 PM MT

How to Watch: TNT

Rival Blog: Silver Screen and Roll

Matchups

Matchups

POS LAL DEN EDGE
POS LAL DEN EDGE
PG LeBron James Jamal Murray Lakers
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Gary Harris Nuggets
SF Danny Green Jerami Grant Nuggets
PF Anthony Davis Paul Millsap Lakers
C JaVale McGee Nikola Jokic Nuggets
BENCH Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard Monte Morris, Torrey Craig, PJ Dozier, Mason Plumlee, Bol Bol Nuggets

Injuries: Will Barton (knee soreness - out)

Three Things to Watch

Defend without fouling. The Nuggets did a great job in Game Three of positioning themselves well to contest shots, block the paint, and deter the Lakers offense without committing fouls. The referees let things get rough in the fourth quarter, but for the most part, did a good job calling what they saw. The Nuggets need to help prevent the Lakers from getting a chance to rest between possessions and getting easy chances to score by sending them to the free throw line. When the Nuggets can keep their best five players on the court against the Lakers best five players, the Nuggets are winning that matchup so far in the series — not just in Game 3, the series.

More Jamal Murray please. This isn’t a complaint that he hasn’t done enough — quite the opposite. Murray has been stellar in this series, getting a chance to shine after a difficult matchup in the previous round against Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers. Whether he’s getting huge dunks at the rim or knocking down 3-pointers from Kitchener, the Nuggets guard is proving that he has the tools to be one of the best guards in the league. He’s certainly in the argument for best point guard left in the playoffs, and if he continues to play like it, the Nuggets offense will have their key to figuring out the Lakers defense.

Chess. In the good game, the queen is the most powerful piece on the board, but the point of the game is to take out the king. In this series, the Nuggets may have had success in Game 3 against the Lakers queen, but they really did a good job targeting the king on the court, goading James into taking jumpers and committing turnovers. Let’s see if Michael Malone is able to devise another scheme to help put the Lakers stars where he wants them on the court, so his pieces can find an advantage on the court and wind up with another victory.

Prediction

Even if we lose, it’s not like the Nuggets are dead. The resolve of this team has been so great to watch during this playoffs run. If you’re not having fun now, check your pulse.