The Denver Nuggets find themselves in yet another elimination game in these 2019-2020 NBA playoffs in Orlando. With a record of 6-0 in elimination games, the Nuggets look to keep their fairytale playoff run alive against arguably the best team left in the NBA Bubble. The Lakers are no pushover. In series-determining games, the Lakers hold a 2-0 record as they have not allowed teams to win when the Lakers have three series wins. Once again, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will be the keys to the Nuggets success as both men combine to average over 60 points in elimination games, so they would have to pull off yet another monstrous scoring effort to have a chance at playing a Game 6 in these Western Conference Finals.
The first half of the first quarter swayed in favor of the Denver Nuggets despite both ball clubs racking up three turnovers. The lead bounced to 12-7 after a swift 7-1 run by the Nuggets that was capped off by a Gary Harris three-pointer. Alex Caruso came off the bench for the Lakers and immediately made an impact in the paint. “The Bald Eagle” as fans call him was 4-4 from the field to go along with his 8 points were crucial in the Lakers 33-30 first quarter lead. Jamal Murray came up dry for the Nuggets as his 10 minutes of play only resulted in two points from free throws as he was just 0-2 from the field. There is still a lot of basketball to be played, so there is still time for guys like Murray and Jokic to take over the game.
The second quarter saw the continuation of smark basketball from Alex Caruso which translated to the entire Laker squad. Nikola Jokic picked up his third personal foul early in the quarter and Jamal Murray didn’t hit his first field goal until the halfway mark of the quarter. This helped the Lakers go on an 11-2 run and catapult to a 51-42 lead. LeBron went on an absolute tear in the middle of the quarter as he had 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists with 4 and a half minutes to go in the half. He continued to get his way in the paint and finished off with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists on 6-10 shooting from the field. Anthony Davis picked up his third personal foul during this quarter, so foul trouble would be a big focal point for the second half. Alex Caruso finished off the half with 11 points on 5-5 shooting to help the Lakers grab a 61-51 halftime score but the Lakers have to be wary of the Nuggets as they have proven six times before that they turned into a different team in the second half of elimination games.
The second half started with the Lakers on fire from the field as they missed just one shot in the first three minutes to help push their lead up to as many as 15 points. With 4 minutes left in the quarter, the Nuggets were able to cut the lead to 7 points thanks to a Nikola Jokic two-pointer that was followed by a flagrant foul 1 from Dwight Howard on Paul Millsap. Millsap made his free throw and in the following possession, Michael Porter Jr drained a three pointer. The Nuggets are called the comeback kids for a reason, but the foul trouble continued to follow Jokic as he got his fourth personal foul which sent him back to the bench. Jerami Grant’s offense was pivotal in the Nuggets comeback as he ended the third quarter with 18 points in the game. Jamal Murray had been dealing with a right leg injury for the game but was still able to facilitate and create offense for himself despite just 13 points for the game. Still, the Denver Nuggets got the Lakers right where they wanted them as the score was 87-84 in favor of the Lakers heading into the fourth quarter.
The effort and will of the Nuggets to try and force Game 6 was slowly slipping away. LeBron James continued to get his way in the paint as the Los Angeles Lakers pushed their lead up to 10. James at himself 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists with 6:11 to go in the game. LeBron was literally doing it all for LA as the Nuggets were being left behind in his dust. Anthony Davis had yet another ankle injury scare, but in the following possession the big man knocked down a deep three that forced Michael Malone to take a timeout with the score up to 102-92. Denver did answer with a 7-1 run to cut the lead to 4, but a Danny Green three and a LeBron James deep two helped push the game score to 108-99. LeBron continued to take over not just the fourth quarter, but the entire game. After that Laker burst, LeBron went on his own offensive burst and scored nine straight points to force a Nuggets timeout with the lead up to 115-103. That insane run put up by LeBron was enough to secure a – win and punch LA’s ticket to the NBA finals for the first time in 10 years. The Lakers are yet to know who their opponents will be as the Boston-Heat series is yet to be determined.