James and Davis had big games for the Lakers, both getting double digit free throws to help tilt the game in their favor and keep a lead throughout a majority of the game.
Nikola Jokic had a quiet night, getting smoked on the glass most of the night while struggling with fouls. Jamal Murray was huge for the Nuggets with 32 points and 8 assists, but finished with zero 3-pointers on a night where his teammates just couldn’t overcome the Lakers star combo.
The Nuggets jumped out to an early lead, but the Lakers answered with a bigger run of their own to claim a 20-12 lead. Anthony Davis started 6 for 6, sending Millsap back to the bench early. Dwight Howard grabbed a couple offensive rebounds, getting prime position against Jokic as the Nuggets center lost a few battles around the rim. As good as the Lakers bigs were, Jamal Murray was just as special, getting points all over the court to keep the Nuggets only a few buckets behind Los Angeles. LeBron James got away with an offensive foul, charging into Jerami Grant, extending his arm to push him down, and Grant was gracious enough to accept the foul.
Michael Porter Jr. took a couple 3-pointers to start the second quarter, but the key part of that is attempts, not makes. Monte Morris cracked the seal on the scoreboard with a nice drive and layup against JaVale McGee, but with LeBron James on the court, the Lakers were able to pad their lead. Jokic got stripped going to the rim, continuing to not really make a difference in the game. MPJ got to the rim for a layup, then Jokic hit a 3-pointer, and the lead got cut down to seven points. Mason Plumlee committed a terrible foul, hitting Davis on the wrist as the Lakers big was attempting a stepback 3-pointer with a second left on the shot clock.
The Nuggets missed two wide open 3-pointers, with LeBron rebounding the ball and driving all the rim for a layup. The Nuggets couldn’t string together a combo of stops and scores, unable to narrow the lead for a spell. Jamal Murray got a couple baskets, including an incredible finish under the rim against James, cutting the lead to four points. Jokic was able to put Howard in the spin cycle for a hook shot to make it 60-55, and that would be the score they’d take into the locker room for halftime.
That was one of the coolest layups I've ever seen. #Murray— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) September 25, 2020
The Lakers started the quarter with a couple extra teammates on the court, but despite the boost from the boys in black, they couldn’t get their shots to fall. Millsap got called for a foul on a flop by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and had to go to the bench early in the quarter. The Lakers hit three 3-pointers in a row, pushing their lead up to nine points with their role players making a difference. Torrey Craig knocked down a 3-pointer off a pick and roll from Murray and Jokic, getting a shot to fall as he had come on the court to spell Millsap.
Both teams traded baskets, missed shots, and trips to the free throw line, but the Lakers continued to keep their comfortable lead as James directed the game like the crafty veteran he is. Grant missed an open look, and Rondo went high off glass to push the lead to 11 points as the Nuggets began to start looking like they didn’t have an answer in this game. Jokic started going to the rim to get points, but they couldn’t keep Rondo away from the rim as the Lakers continued to maintain their lead of double digits. The Nuggets got a triple from MPJ, then a stop lead to a transition opportunity for Grant, who got to the free throw line and made both his shots. MPJ had a rookie moment, getting the ball knocked off his face by Rondo after a rebound, but atoned for it with a triple to end the quarter with a score of 87-84. The Nuggets closed on an 11-4 run, and will need that momentum to carry into the fourth quarter.
Markieff Morris started the fourth quarter with an offensive foul, after Mason Plumlee made a great play by trapping him in the corner. Monte Morris made both his freebies after getting fouled by Danny Green, cutting the score to 87-86. Denver forced a shot clock violation on the next possession, then went back down to the other side of the court but couldn’t take the lead. LeBron found Morris on a drive for a bucket, then a Murray turnover gave the Lakers star a chance to get to the free throw line. Plumlee fouled Davis on a drive, and Nikola Jokic checked back in the game with the Nuggets down by seven points and nine minutes remaining.
Jokic picked up two quick fouls after checking in, and went to the bench after only playing a few seconds. Millsap checked in for him, but the Nuggets entered a danger zone with their big guy on the bench. The veteran forward hit Grant on a cut for a dunk, then Murray scored over Davis to cut the lead to four points. Davis got the refs to call a foul on Millsap by landing funny on the court, then Murray didn’t get continuation on the next possession despite getting fouled. Jokic checked back in with 5:46 left and the Lakers up by four points. Murray turned the ball over trying to get the ball to Jokic, then KCP hit a 3-pointer to put LA up seven. Millsap answered with a 3-pointer of his own, his first of the game, but turned the ball over on a drive on the next possession.
Murray missed a tough shot, and James was able to finish after getting a full head of steam in transition. Monte Morris got fouled on a floater, converting the foul shot to cut the lead to three points. Davis fumbled the ball out of bounds, but the Nuggets missed a shot and the Lakers scored in transition. Davis grabbed an offensive rebound after a miss by KCP, and then LeBron bought a trip to the free throw line with a rip-through on Grant. Markieff Morris got called for an illegal screen, giving the Nuggets the ball back with 90 seconds. The Nuggets couldn’t get a field goal to drop in the final three minutes, and the Lakers improved to 3-1 in the series.
The Lakers ran out the game by getting to the free throw line, and the Nuggets couldn’t get enough points to send it to overtime. They were done in by Dwight Howard’s offensive rebounds in the first half, and too many turnovers with not enough defensive stops that culminated with a defensive rebound.