NBA: Jamal Murray celebrates as the Nuggets claimed Game 3 win against the Lakers

NBA Preview: Nuggets Not Cooked Just Yet

Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Lakers

Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals will be a big one. Like in the Boston Celtics in East, the Denver Nuggets will be looking to level up their series against the Los Angeles Lakers at 2-2 after winning Game 3.

After their heartbreaking loss at the buzzer in Game 2, the Nuggets went up by as many as 20 points and held off a late Lakers run to pull out the victory.

The Nuggets have gone down 3-1 in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs, but can they finally put an end to that trend this time around?

 

Talking Points

Nuggets’ supporting cast needs to deliver again

The Nuggets needed their stars — Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray — to carry them for most of Game 2, but they fell just short in the end.

In Game 3, though, they had much more support in the form of Jerami Grant and Monte Morris. Grant was surprisingly aggressive all game long — he finished with 12 free-throw attempts — en route to 26 points. Meanwhile, Morris had 14 points and was instrumental in the Nuggets building their first-half lead.

And with the win in danger of slipping away late, Murray closed it out with some clutch shots as he finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, and 12 assists.

The Nuggets’ supporting cast looks to be more capable of producing those sorts of performances than the Lakers, and that is what Denver will be counting on in Game 4. Aside from Grant and Morris, Michael Porter Jr. has also provided some major contributions during this playoff run.

Of course, Jokic and Murray have also shown they are more than capable of delivering a host of NBA 2020 highlights, especially when they are facing a deficit.

And with the Denver defence showing significant improvement, it will be difficult for the Lakers to blow them out again like they did in Game 1.

 

Lakers’ offensive issues reemerge

NBA star Anthony Davis did not play quite as well for the Lakers after his game-winning performance in Game 2

Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap shoots against Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Finals

After blowing out the Nuggets in Game 1, the Lakers have found it much tougher to score in the last two games as Denver’s defence has made some key adjustments.

The Nuggets are now daring LA to beat them with perimeter shooting, and after Anthony Davis hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat the Nuggets in Game 2, the Lakers couldn’t hit their threes in Game 3. Davis and Alex Caruso both went 0-of-4 and Rajon Rondo was 0-of-3 as they finished 6-of-26 as a team.

The Lakers simply haven’t had enough consistent shooting all season long, and it has become an even bigger issue with Caruso and Rondo playing at the same time.

With the Lakers’ shots not falling, the Nuggets were able to build a big lead in the second quarter and pushed it to 20 points in the third. And while the Lakers came back to cut it down to three late in the fourth, their offensive limitations prevented them from coming all the way back.

LeBron James did his best to keep LA in the game as he finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists.

However, co-star Anthony Davis did not play quite as well after his game-winning performance in Game 2. Despite 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting, Davis had just two rebounds as the Lakers were also demolished 44-25 by Denver in the rebounding department.

The Lakers can’t rely on their role players to play well on a consistent basis, so they need the Davis who scored 30-plus points and had 20-plus shot attempts in the first two games of the series to play more aggressively on offence moving forward.

 

History

The Lakers have generally been at their best once Game 4 came around in their first two series. They blew out the Portland Trail Blazers by 20 in the first round, then took care of the Rockets by 10 in their two Game 4s to date.

It’s been quite the opposite for Denver, though. The Nuggets have lost both of their Game 4s in these playoffs to go down 3-1 in the series. Of course, they defied the NBA 2020 odds to come back and win both of those series, so don’t count Denver out even if they do lose Game 4.

 

What are the odds?

Despite their Game 3 setback, SBOTOP odds still have the Lakers pegged as 1.38 favourites to win Game 4, with the Nuggets priced at 3.08.

And over on the Asian Handicap market, the Lakers are favoured by between 5.50 and 6.50 points. The Nuggets have covered in each of the last two games, though.

Finally, the over under remains set at 214.50 and 215 points. The total has gone over in two of the first three games.

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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