Our very own Tony Yashar called it. He said the key to the Lakers taking a 3-0 lead came down to 3 things. LeBron James had to be more assertive, the shooters needed to make their shots and the team would have to make their free-throws. It’s important to give credit where its due, the Nuggets played with urgency and won the game. Kudos to them! But when you consider the Lakers shot 23.1% from three and only 63.6% from the free-throw line you can see how the Lakers did their part in the Nuggets victory. LeBron was assertive-ish, but Tony didn’t say 1 of 3 things, he said 3 things. Tony called it.
The Nuggets came into this game with urgency. The very first NBA game in history was played in 1946. In all those years 73 years no team has ever come back to win a series when they were down 0-3. The NBA is the only major North American sport with a seven-game playoffs series where no team has overcome a 3–0 deficit. It’s happened only 5 times in across all sports, 4 times in the NHL and once in the MLB. The Nuggets knew this is a game they needed or they were going home.
Turns out, the Nuggets did not want to go home.
The Nuggets are a very good team. Sure they have Nikola Jokic who is an All-Star, but what makes the Nuggets so good is how they play as a team. Tonight, everything seemed to be working well for them. They defended well and they got scoring from Jokic with 22 points, Jamal Murray who had 28 points and somewhat surprising 26 points from Jerami Grant. Most surprising was that the Nuggets out-rebounded the Lakers 44-25.
When you begin to dissect the Lakers performance you noticed that Anthony Davis only had 2 rebounds. In fact, he had 2 less than that into the fourth quarter. I’ll do the math for you, that’s 0 rebounds! It might have been an aberration, but in 43 minutes of playing time a total of 0 rebounds when the game was still within reach is shocking. Just a little less shocking, but shocking nonetheless, was the absence of Alex Caruso, Oh, he saw time, 25 minutes in fact, but he didn’t do what we have become used to with his minutes. Caruso had 0 points until a last second concession bucket and was 0-4 from deep. Worst yet, he didn’t have any of his energy plays, a great defensive sequence or highlight pass that led to a dunk. It says a lot about Caruso’s journey that we now notice when he doesn’t show up.
Tonight, he didn’t show up.
There is some blame to pass around for the Lakers, but you have to give credit to the team that won. No one had the Lakers sweeping the Nuggets, except maybe Charles Barkley. But he lost all credibility when he handed the broom to the Clippers. They finished third in the West and are a very, very good basketball team. This was the game they needed to win – and they won it. Credit where its due