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Sport Opinion: LA Lakers should take this wake-up call seriously following Game 3 loss to Denver Nuggets

10:10  25 september  2020
10:10  25 september  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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WAKE - UP CALL : Lakers should take Game 3 loss to Nuggets seriously . NEXT YEAR:Silver says 2020-21 season likely won't start until January. The Nuggets had an answer for everything the Lakers did. When Los Angeles bit into their lead, making it 63-58 early in the third quarter, the

“We feel that we should be up 2-1 right now, to be honest,” Murray said. The Lakers got the first five points of the third to cut the lead in half, but Denver regained control and led 93-75 after three. Nuggets : Denver ’s last halftime lead had been a 59-57 edge over the Clippers in Game 3 of the West

This time, the night did not end with Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis making a dramatic game-winning 3-pointer that would make Kobe Bryant proud. It ended with Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray making timely shots and performing a shimmy move that would make Stephen Curry proud.

But as the Lakers painfully experienced in a 114-106 loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, this game did not just capture the thin line in a make-or-miss league. It also highlighted the thin line between the Lakers’ resiliency and vulnerability.

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LA Lakers . The Lakers fell short in Game 3 despite a fierce fourth quarter comeback, falling 114-106 to Denver to see their lead cut in half, to 2-1 for the Western Conference Finals. From the opening tip, the Nuggets played with the desperation of a team determined not to go down 3-0 in the series

The Denver Nuggets held off the Los Angeles Lakers ' fourth-quarter comeback to seal a 114-106 win in Game 3 . Jamal Murray led the charge with some big buckets down the stretch as he finished with 28 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds, while Nikola Jokic added 22 points, 10 rebounds

Even after Davis prompted his teammates to shower him with hugs and evoke comparisons to the late Lakers’ legend for the Game 2 win, the Lakers internally had concerns about their play. So much that Lakers coach Frank Vogel told his team they “dodged a bullet” by withstanding the Nuggets’ runs while playing sloppily. In Game 3, the Lakers learned once again the Nuggets usually aim well when they are given a shot.

a man holding a basketball: LeBron James reflects during the second half of the Lakers' Game 3 loss to the Nuggets. © Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports LeBron James reflects during the second half of the Lakers' Game 3 loss to the Nuggets.

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“It's not going to be winning ingredients for us if we continue to do that,” Lakers forward LeBron James said. “We knew that, even after Game 2. We talked about that, trying to assure that.”

James has often shared what his mother, Gloria, often told him as a child, “Don’t talk about it; be about it.” And on Tuesday, the Lakers failed to live up to that mantra. Just like the Utah Jazz and L.A. Clippers before them, the Lakers played against the Nuggets as if they would coast to a win. As the Jazz and the Clippers already experienced, the Lakers were then proven wrong.

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Following a devasting Game 2 loss in which Los Angeles edged Denver on a buzzer-beating They took a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Lakers ’ largest deficit of the playoffs, and held off With each and every passing game , the Nuggets and their fans are seeing Jamal Murray continue to tap

Which points to what should be an area of focus for the Nuggets —getting off to a stronger start. Los Angeles scored 60 points, hitting 43.8 percent from downtown, in the opening 24 minutes. In the final 12 minutes of the game , the 25-year-old took over offensively and almost willed the Nuggets to a win.

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The Nuggets built a 20-point lead because of hunger. The Nuggets outrebounded the Lakers (35-21) because of hustle. And the Lakers committed 16 turnovers and 21 fouls because of sloppiness.

“They played with more desperation,” Davis said. “They played harder. They were getting 50/50 basketballs. They were the aggressors and it showed.”

Unlike the Jazz and the Clippers, the Lakers did not fold. They mounted a fourth-quarter comeback that started with a 19-6 run to trim the Nuggets’ lead to 99-96 with 6:07 left. They installed a zone defense. They forced turnovers that lead to a fast-break offense.

Then, the Lakers went flat. James bobbled a pass before missing a step-back 3-pointer and a step-back jumper. Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma hesitated to take a wide-open 3-pointer before finally taking one that went short. Same thing happened to Lakers guard Rajon Rondo. The Lakers made only one out of seven shots in the final 6:07.

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Denver gave up just 22 points in the third and 23 in the fourth and that allowed the Nuggets to rally hard and assume the lead on a tip-in followed by a Image: Jamal Murray questions a call during the Denver Nuggets ' Game 2 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

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“I don’t think we ran out of gas. We just didn’t make the timely plays when we needed them,” Rondo said. “We can’t keep getting breaks with the wins or losses. So we took the 'L,' and we deserved it.”

The Lakers deserved it indeed.

Though James recorded a triple double in points (30), assists (11) and rebounds (10), he became wildly ineffective with his surprisingly erratic playmaking that led to six turnovers.

“It's some of the risk passes that we're making, including myself,” James said. “There are some passes that we have been able to complete throughout this season, but versus Denver we have to be a little bit more careful and make more -- more sound plays with the ball, and protect the ball ... We just got to do a better job of that and it's a conscious effort that not only starts with me because I'm the point guard of the team, and it trickles down to everyone else.”

Two nights after Davis cemented himself into Lakers lore with a dramatic game winner in a pivotal playoff game, he dented some of that equity. Despite his 27 points, Davis shot poorly from deep (0-of-4), grabbed only two rebounds and committed three turnovers.

“Have to do a better job on the glass, personally. I can't have two rebounds for an entire game,” Davis said. “Unacceptable. I mean, there's not really much I can say. I just have to do better.”

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LA Lakers . DENVER GETS BACK, AND CLOSES UP THE PAINT Among the biggest issues: the Lakers scored only 34 points in Nuggets coach Mike Malone preached the same keys before and after Game 1, but the Nuggets still weren’t L . A . also hit 18 of 19 free throw attempts (94.7 percent) to DEN’s 25 of 33 (75.8 percent), as the Lakers were called for 30 fouls compared to Denver ’s 22.

NBA Betting Preview: Denver Nuggets won Game 3 after LA Lakers won the first 2 games of Western Conference Finals. Lakers are -6 favorites in Game Jamal Murray only scored 28 points in Game 3 , but it felt like he dropped 50. After the Lakers shot their load with a fourth-quarter comeback to erase

Despite the Lakers’ identity and late-game resurgence resting on defense and fast-break points, the Nuggets then prompted them to begin an ugly habit. Instead of attacking the basket for easy layups or trips to the free-throw line, the Lakers settled for jump shots. Those open shots for Kuzma and Rondo aside, the Lakers should have gone for a higher-percentage shot. Instead, the Lakers labored through a 6-of-26 mark from 3-point range.

“When we settle too much, we play into their hands,” Vogel said. “When we're attacking the paint, we're getting great looks every time we're touching the paint. We definitely have to be more aggressive.”

And if not?

Then the Nuggets will simply expose the Lakers the same way they did to the Jazz and the Clippers. Simply grinding through a Game 4 win on Thursday will not be enough, either. That would give the Lakers a 3-1 series lead, and the Nuggets have shown that is when they become their most dangerous. Instead, the Lakers will have to accept that their night begins on opening tip. It will not end until the final buzzer sounds.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: LA Lakers should take this wake-up call seriously following Game 3 loss to Denver Nuggets

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JORDI FERNANDEZ et al. posing for the camera: Iconic buzzer-beating game-winner aside, Anthony Davis has been this postseason's player according to a few trustworthy advanced metrics, including Win Shares (2.8) and Win Shares per 48 Minutes (0.287).  It's easy to see why the advanced states rate the Kentucky product so favorably, too, as Davis is averaging 28.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per contest with an effective field-goal percentage of 59.6.  What's more, how could we not talk about Davis' Game-2 game-winner, where he sank the Denver Nuggets' comeback hopes with this silky-smooth outside jumper from the wing:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJOkrA3VB7c&ab_channel=BleacherReport  If the Lakers do go on to win this year's title, it'll go down as one of the biggest shots in L.A. franchise history. It might already deserve that distinction anyway.

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