Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Los Angeles Lakers get a lead on the Denver Nuggets, only to get chased down and lose in embarrassing fashion to Denver. It happened again to the Lakers, as Jamal Murray buried the buzzer-beater to defeat Los Angeles and put Denver up 2-0 in the series. Needing to win 4 of the next 5 to advance, LA will be in full desperation mode but the obvious question is, “will it matter?” We’ll find out tonight.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (2-0) vs Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)

When: 8:00 PM MDT

Where: The Crypt. Los Angeles, CA.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. TNT/TruTV. AltitudeTV where available (AltitudeTV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). League Pass for non-Nuggets market viewers. Tell the security guard you’ve got the secret formula to stop LA’s losing streak to Denver at 10, and for only 49.95 you’ll even throw in a Sham-wow. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Silver Screen & Roll

Injury Report: Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Anthony Davis – probable (back), LeBron James – probable (foot), Jalen Hood-Schifino – out (back), Cam Reddish – out (ankle), Jarred Vanderbilt – out (foot), Christian Wood – out (knee).


The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Who is going to make threes?

Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. are 10-for-24 on three point attempts in this series so far, 41.6%. The rest of the Nuggets are shooting a cool (VERY cool, frigid even) 25% on 52 attempts. The Lakers are shooting 35.6% from deep. To beat the Nuggets, the Lakers need several things to go their way but one of them is the math advantage. Their roleplayers need to make threes and Denver’s need to keep missing them. From Denver’s perspective, they’ve have a metric ton of open shots from deep that just haven’t fallen. Denver isn’t going to flinch – they’ll keep taking the open looks their offense generates, trusting that eventually they’ll go down.

Los Angeles took the third-fewest three-pointers in the league in the regular season though, so they don’t have the volume to make up for any extra success Denver finds behind the arc. The Lakers need variance to stay in their favor because they are getting out-rebounded by 8 boards a game by the Nuggets and literally cannot play LeBron James and Anthony Davis any more minutes than they are currently playing. There aren’t a lot of other places to make up the points. Denver rebounds better and closes better, and normally is more efficient as well. If the Nuggets finally wake up from their playoff slumber and start making deep shots it will look very grim for Los Angeles.

The thing to remember: One of these teams knows how to close, and one does not

Is Denver better than Los Angeles? Yes. Is Denver 10 games in a row better than Los Angeles? Probably not. Has Denver been better in the closing minutes of these 10 victories in a row over Los Angeles? Absolutely. And that’s the problem for the Lakers: the Nuggets can be beaten, but they don’t just lose games. Even when they play terribly for a quarter, or a half, or even 3 quarters they always have it in their back pocket that if they can stay within striking distance they can chase down any opponent. They are completely unafraid of big moments and know exactly who they are. The Lakers are terrified of close games against Denver, and it shows.

If LA wants to change their luck tonight they have to beat Denver, not just get a lead. They have to win those late possessions, execute while not allowing Denver to come right back at them. The Lakers can play a good game and win, or a great game and still lose – but either way the Nuggets will simply never lay down and die in the playoffs. If LA wants to avoid a 3-0 deficit they’ll have to keep their nerve for the whole 48, because you absolutely know in your bones that Denver will. And for the past 10 games we’ve seen exactly how that plays out.

The thing to bet: Nuggets to win by 6-10: +475

Do you think Denver will find its shot and batter the poor Los Angeles psyche with more made buckets down the stretch? Los Angeles will come out hard in the first half – nobody knows better than they do how much they need this game. But if Denver isn’t laying bricks all game I can envision that team running out of steam as they face a Denver squad that just makes buckets when it matters. So if Denver can keep pace with LA in the first half instead of falling behind, the second half prognosis for the Lakers gets very bleak, and the prospect of Denver stretching a lead out a little bit bigger pays big dividends.