By Ollie Nash
Anthony Davis was great for the Lakers and put multiple Denver bigs in foul trouble. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Lakers have taken a commanding 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, with a 114-108 win in Game 4.
Thanks to 60 combined points from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the Lakers held off the Nuggets who despite being down the entire game, continued to make runs and stay in the contest.
LA were able to jump out to multiple double-digit leads in the second and third quarters, but thanks to another exceptional game from Jamal Murray, Denver continually bought it back to within four or five.
After a 37-30 first quarter lead to Los Angeles, the points differential for the remaining three quarters was just two in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth.
Offensive rebounds were the difference for the Lakers, and Dwight Howard led the way in this area from the outset. Replacing JaVale McGee in the starting line-up, Howard had eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter, four of which were offensive.
His impact on the game extended to the defensive end too, holding Nikola Jokic to just two points in the first quarter. Anthony Davis and Jamal Murray were on fire to start the game however, Davis putting up 14 points on 6-6 field goal and Murray having 12 on 6-7 shooting.
The two continued their dominance in the remaining three quarters, which were back and forth with big plays from star players on both ends.
The Lakers looked to be breaking away with an 11-point lead with 3:35 to play in the third. An 11-4 Denver run and back-to-back threes from Michael Porter Jr. bought the margin back to three however, and it was anyone’s game going into the final quarter.
Jamal Murray continues to impress in these playoffs. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
Davis injured his ankle after landing on Paul Millsap’s foot with 6:44 to play and with just a five-point lead following his free-throws, it felt like Denver were in the box seat. Big play after big play on both ends ensued, and it took a Rajon Rondo jump-shot and two free-throws from LeBron James to take the margin to seven with two-minutes to play, enough to get the Lakers home.
Despite James’ tough defence on him in the final six minutes, Jamal Murray was still outstanding, finishing with 32 points, three rebounds and eight assists on 12-20 shooting from the field.
Jokic was quiet compared to his standards with 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. It was the supporting cast that kept Denver alive though, Jerami Grant (17), Porter Jr. (13) and Monte Morris (12) all impacting the game.
On the Lakers side Howard’s 12 points and 11 rebounds were huge and Rondo’s 11 points, five rebounds and seven assists were big also.
Los Angeles will now look to advance to their first NBA Finals since 2010 on Sunday, with Game Five kicking off at 11:00 am AEDT on ESPN.
Cover Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images