NBA Playoffs: Denver pushes Lakers to the brink of elimination after Game 3 win

Denver shocks the Lakers (Harry How/Getty Images)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Denver Nuggets rose to the occasion and overcame home-court disadvantage to stun the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of their Western Conference finals clash, 119-108, to move one win away from their first-ever NBA championship series appearance last May 21, 2023.

Jamal Murray picked up where he left off after a dominant Game 2 performance and led the Nuggets in scoring again for the second-straight time this series.

The superstar guard replicated his 37-point outing in Game 3 alongside 10 rebounds, five assists, and four steals and already put up 30 points on board heading into the last two quarters.

Denver quickly sent a message to the Lakers after establishing a double-digit lead with still five minutes remaining in the first quarter after Michael Porter Jr. sank a three-pointer from the right corner. The surge didn’t end for the Nuggets after Murray’s fade-away jumper at the top of the key ballooned their advantage to 14 points.

Just when the Nuggets thought they could sustain their firepower in the second frame, Austin Reaves, one of the most consistent players in the Laker roster in the entire post-season, caught fire and helped Los Angeles reach striking distance after the first half, 58-55.

When the Lakers kept on piling up the points, Denver just answered back and halted the home team’s momentum courtesy of huge responses from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Porter Jr.

LeBron James, who is struggling from downtown in the entire series, woke up the dead Los Angeles crowd when he knocked down back-to-back treys in the last minute of the third to get them to just a point, 83-82.

The Lakers looked to complete their comeback after tasting the lead, 84-85, but a demoralizing Denver counter put them back into the driver’s seat again when they clinched a 10-point lead, 104-94, with only 4:58 remaining in the game.

Despite playing through foul trouble after picking up his fourth personal in the third, Nikola Jokic accepted the challenge and was huge down the stretch for the Nuggets.

In just two minutes, Jokic made Denver’s three biggest plays in the clutch after scoring underneath, draining a triple to maintain their 11-point lead, and delivering the assist to Murray that sent an early exclamation point to the purple and gold.

Porter Jr. then buried the cold-blooded trifecta that pushed their lead to 14 points, 117-103, officially ending Los Angeles’ comeback hopes with only a little time remaining in the clock.

Jokic came alive in the fourth to backstop Murray with 24 points, eight assists, six rebounds, and a steal while Bruce Brown, their ever-reliant go-to-guy from the bench, chipped in 15 points, five assists, and five rebounds.

Can the Lakers still pull off a miracle and get back from a 0-3 deficit? Or will the Nuggets complete the sweep and make their first-ever trip to the NBA finals on May 23, 2023?