If you’re the Denver Nuggets, down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals, you have the Los Angeles Lakers just where you want them.
The Nuggets rallied back from down 3-1 twice already this postseason with a 6-0 record in elimination game situations.
The Nuggets have yet to panic after falling into a 3-1 hole, but this time things are different because the Nuggets have LeBron James on the other end of the court in this particular elimination game. Sure, LeBron’s Lakers could concede another game or two, but will LeBron lose three potential knock-out games in a row? The task ahead seems daunting, but the Nuggets don’t like to overthink their situation.
“One game at a time,” said head coach Michael Malone.
“The pressure is on the Lakers to get the job done right now,” said Denver forward Monte Morris. “We’ve been here before so we just have to come in and do what we do.”
|#1 LA Lakers (3-1) vs #3 (Denver Nuggets (1-3)|
- Tip-off: 6:00pm PT
- Point Spread: LAL -5.5
- Total: 214.5 o/u
- Moneyline: DEN +177 / LAL -200
According to DraftKings, the Lakers are -400 odds to win the NBA title, while the Nuggets are +4000.
If you’re feeling frisky, have charged up all your heady crystals under the autumn moon equinox, and are all-in on the Nuggets 3-1 comeback magic, then you can back the Nugs at +1600 odds to win the series. In case you’re wondering, the Lakers are -10000 to win West.
LeBron D, AD Ankle
Anthony Davis sprained his ankle, but it didn’t seem to slow him down one bit. He led all scorers with 34 points.
LeBron James added 26 points and fell short of a triple-double with nine rebounds and eight assists. However, it’s his crunch-time defense that drew accolades.
LeBron, known for taking it easy on the defensive end to conserve energy, wanted to d-up Murray with 4:20 to go. With Davis handling Jokic, LeBron shadowed Jamal Murray to make sure he didn’t unleash any last-second heroics with his deadly 3-point shooting or acrobatic shots in the lane.
“LeBron asked for the assignment, and obviously I granted it,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
“I knew it was winning time and Jamal had it going,” said LeBron about the defensive switch. “Jamal is the hottest player in the bubble.”
Murray didn’t lead the Nugs to a miraculous comeback, and the Lakers held on to a 114-108 victory.
“We just had so many breakdowns throughout the game,” said Murray. “We’ve just got to be better.”
Despite the sprained ankle, Davis said he’s good to go for Game 5. Meanwhile, everyone in Colorado hopes the Lakers are downplaying the severity of AD’s ankle injury. The Nuggets will need any extra edge they can get heading into Game 5’s elimination scenario.
Working the Refs
The NBA is a star league. The stars always get the calls, especially in the postseason against younger opponents. It’s always been like that. However, the Lakers have been working the refs extra hard this series.
Vogel complained to the authorities that LeBron wasn’t going to the free-throw line often enough. You don’t have to be an NBA conspiracy theorist or a stats geek to know that the Nugs were getting a classic screw job last Wednesday night.
In Game 4, if you looked at LeBron the wrong way, you got whistled for a foul. The Lakers shot 35 free throws versus only 23 from the Nuggets. LeBron and Davis went to the charity stripe 14 times each in the victory, or 24-for-28.
|GAME 4 FREE THROWS|
|Murray + Jokic||10-10|
On the flip side, the zebras ignored the numerous muggings Lakers’ defenders (including LeBron) gave Jamal Murray during drives to the hoop in the fourth quarter. The zebras swallowed their whistles on Denver’s side of the court, while their whistles were quick-triggered whenever LeBron handled the ball.
“Late in the game, Jamal attacked the basket a few times where there appeared to be contact,” said Malone.
“He hasn’t earned that call against Bron in that moment,” tweeted Golden State’s Draymond Green.
Murray and Jokic combined for a perfect 10-for-10 from the line for Denver. The Nugs’ two stars combined for 10 free throws in Game 4, while AD and LeBron accounted for 28 trips to the charity stripe.
Will the zebras throw the Nuggets a bone now that they’re down 3-1 and facing elimination in Game 5? Or will the officials continue to be company men and clear a path to the NBA Finals for LeBron and the Lakers to further the big business interests of the NBA, their sponsors, and media partners?