Orlando: Denver’s fearless 23-year-old, Jamal Murray, saw his team’s lead slipping away. A 20-point lead Tuesday night had been trimmed to three with five minutes to play.
So Murray made a smooth three-pointer from just behind the arc. On the next possession, he found teammate Paul Millsap, the man who’d never defeated LeBron James in a play-off game, inside for a dunk. Then he punctuated a 10-1 Nuggets run with a deep three-pointer.
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Murray went backward in a semi-dance, knowing he’d helped secure his team’s first win in the Western Conference finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers dropped Game 3 of the series 114-106 and lead it two games to one, despite 30 points and a triple-double from James, and 27 points from Anthony Davis. Murray finished the game in Orlando, Florida, with 28 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.
“They played better than us, more aggressive than us through three quarters, 36 minutes,” James said. “We had 16 turnovers for 25 points and put them to the line 29 times. It’s not going to be winning ingredients for us if we continue to do that and we knew that, even after Game 2, we talked about that, trying to assure that. Got to be better than that Game 4.”
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Rajon Rondo, who finished with eight assists, three steals, nine points and four turnovers, said: “We had a lot of wide-open shots that we didn’t make tonight. We didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line and turned the ball over. Those three things, we can’t get a break with wins and losses. Tonight, we took a L and we deserved it.”
Denver’s fight and resilience was not unexpected for the Lakers. Coach Frank Vogel was clear before the game that his team knew they escaped with a game they very well could have lost Sunday night.
“Our guys are well aware that we dodged a bullet,” Vogel said before Game 3. Now the Lakers head into Game 4, up 2-1 against the only team in NBA history to have recovered from 3-1 deficits not once, but twice, in the same play-offs.