Davis decides a battle and the Lakers already caress the final

Tremendous resistance from the Nuggets in a game that the Lakers always dominated but won with difficulties: 3-1 and tomorrow, option to be a finalist.


The joke ran through the networks as soon as a game ended (108-114) that was not exactly for jokes: the Nuggets have the Lakers right where they wanted. After coming back 3-1 against the Jazz and Clippers, they are again 3-1 against. Any calculation of probabilities goes against them, it is obvious; any statistics and any sense of logic. And the Denver Nuggets may be the best possible team to fight from such a well. But the jokes are just that, jokes: they would have preferred (obviously) to win this match, they could do it, they fought like demons to be alive until the end and ended up losing. The Lakers, who always ruled but were never really safe, took a huge weight off their shoulders. And they are one victory away from going back to the Finals. They have three tries. The first, tomorrow.

The Nuggets have had five playoff series in the past two seasons, all of which have played with Michael Malone as coach - in all they have lost at least three games. The previous four were resolved in seven (three wins) and now they need another miracle for it to be like that again. But the truth, beyond the fact that they face a gigantic mountain, without oxygen and almost without Sherpas, is that they are not being much worse than the Lakers. Not after the break of the second game. They are entitled to feel that they could go 2-2 without great oddities. And although that does not feed, it does serve to think that everything can happen if they continue one more day, and then another, and then ... It is also obvious to think that they are one step away from making crack. They have been in the playoffs for 18 games and the next one will be the seventh they play knowing that defeat sends them back to the Rockies. Jamal Murray again put more than 45 minutes between chest and back, Jerami Grant more than 43 ... and the fifth game is tomorrow. With the deposit low and 3-1 down, it's human to think that a strong jolt from the Lakers can send them to the mat in a damn time not to get up. But we've already seen these Nuggets in spades in the 2020 playoffs - you don't want to bet that will happen.

Howard, Rondo ... and Anthony Davis

The Lakers changed. They put Dwight Howard in the quintet and the pivot was decisive in the first half (11 points, 10 rebounds, 6 attack). Rajon Rondo recovered his illogically good version in the second half and was key in the victory (11 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists), Markieff Morris did dirty work and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was once again the best player that is never talked about in this team (13 points, 3 triples, a lot of effort). The Lakers had nothing left over although they corrected their disaster on the rebound and minimized losses, the two obvious aspects of improvement that were marked after their horrible third game. The sense of refereeing also changed, this time more permissive with the Los Angeles physique (to the limit the final defenses of LeBron to Jamal Murray). And Anthony Davis only had 5 rebounds, but they were all in the second half. In addition, he scored 34 points, 10 in the fourth quarter. And he was again the best player on the team, with LeBron highly demanded by Grant (the same player who defended Kawhi Leonard wonderfully in the semifinals) and the outside shot totally lost. In the end, at least, a lesser LeBron hit the free throws, defended well, minimized errors and finished with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. He's one win away from his tenth NBA Finals. It is said soon. And he's one win away from putting a 10-1 record in eleven Conference finals.

The Lakers were superior in more stretches of this game, but found themselves cornered at the end by the insistence of an opponent who returns all the blows, who plays in zombie format, unconscious (in the best sense of the word) but advancing when he should be in the tomb. Despite the foul problems of Millsap and Jokic (16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists), the Nuggets came back as many times as it took: from 32-44 in the second quarter, 71-82 in the third and 88- 96 at last. The tremendous Murray (32 points and 8 assists, this time 0/3 in triples) this time did not have infinite ammunition, and his team ended up bleeding, there was actually the game, for the three attack rebounds he conceded (6- 12 final in a decisive statistic) in the last three minutes and from a 102-107. Pressured and without a clairvoyant LeBron, the Lakers ended up feeling prey after spending the night hunting. But they won. With a 2-1, the series on the swing and in a dangerous inertia for them, that was obviously the most important thing. They are 11-3 in the playoffs and, all season, 52-0 when they lead the fourth quarter. A fact that must mean something and that lately has more to do with Anthony Davis than with LeBron James.

The Nuggets are losing sight of their first Finals. It would be, if consummated, his third loss to the Lakers in three conference finals played. The opposite would be the mother of all miracles, but no one will bet against them without a pinch of nerves (at least) in the fifth game, which is played tomorrow. Nothing suggests, after what we have seen these weeks, that Malone's men are not going to be ready to fight the 48 minutes and they are not going to sell their defeat very dearly… if it is consumed. For the Lakers, having overcome this trance, it remains to finish with the warning of what happened to Jazz and Clippers from an identical situation and against the same and inexhaustible rival. If they do, if they finish, it will be their 32nd Final, the first in a decade and after not even playing the playoffs last season. It would be something thunderous, but one step remains, the last one. And, against these Nuggets, it seems certain that it will have to be a good stride: the road is already very downhill ... but it has to be traveled. We'll see if it's tomorrow.

Photos from as.com
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