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BBNBA: Murray comes up clutch in Game 3 to keep Denver’s hopes alive

(Nathaniel S. Butler | NBAE via Getty Images)

(Nathaniel S. Butler | NBAE via Getty Images)

Good morning, folks. The series is almost 3-1 and you know what that means! Let’s talk NBA Bubble.

RECAP

Murray’s brilliance saves Nuggets in Game 3

As he’s done all postseason long, Jamal Murray hit some insanely clutch shots for the Denver Nuggets down the stretch. But the roles for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals were actually reversed leading up to the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Typically, Denver has been the team trailing by double-digits early and often–no matter what team they’ve run into during the playoffs. That story didn’t change once they advanced to the WCF against the Los Angeles Lakers, as the Nugs had to overcome another double-digit deficit that nearly stole them Game 2 before Anthony Davis decided to etch himself in Bubble lore.

Coming into Game 3 and down 0-2 in the series, Denver needed some extra juice. They answered that call to the tune of a 20-point fourth-period lead–L.A.’s largest deficit of the postseason–holding a 99-79 advantage with 10 minutes left in the game. Then, the Lakers channeled its inner Nuggets energy and promptly rattled off a 19-2 run thanks to the employment of a zone defense that had Denver flummoxed to the tune of nine team turnovers in the fourth quarter. Six of them came in a roughly two-and-a-half-minute span, where Lakers guard Rajon Rondo was trapping out of the L.A. zone and making life a living hell for the Denver ball handlers. He was credited with three of those six steals by the Lakers during that short spurt.

L.A. managed to trim the Denver lead all the way down to 102-99 and were on the verge of overtaking the game until Murray answered the call. The former Wildcat poured in 10 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, delivering two gut-punch triples in the closing minutes that put the Lakers away for good. His first three came with 2:17 left and put the Nuggets up 106-99, but it was his deeeeeep shot from beyond the arc in the eye of AD that gave Denver a 111-99 lead and put the final stamp on this game. The Lakers still lead the series 2-1, but Denver avoided the deadly 0-3 hole. With the Nuggets history of overcoming 3-1 series leads twice already this postseason, the Lakers might want to think about forfeiting Game 4 altogether.

Murray finished his night with arguably his most impressive all-around game during the playoffs thus far. No, he didn’t explode for 50 points as he did against the Utah Jazz (twice), but posting 28 points, eight rebounds, and 12 assists (a playoff career-high) in a must-win game is still pretty damn good. Nikola Jokic also added 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists for Denver. But aside from the team’s two stars, it was the role players who willed the Nuggets to a key victory. Jerami Grant (26 points) and Monte Morris (14 points off the bench) both dropped playoff career-high scoring nights as Denver got hot early in the affair. Game 3 was actually the first time in the Nuggets’ previous six outings that they were in the lead at halftime.

LeBron James popped off for his 26th career playoff triple-double, recording 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. His Laker costar, Anthony Davis, also had an impressive scoring night, adding 27 points on a 9-17 shooting clip, but he somehow only managed to snag TWO rebounds in 42 minutes. Keep in mind, Davis is every bit of 6-foot-10, and Tuesday was only the second time this season that he failed to snag at least three boards. That can’t happen, ever; but especially not in an important playoff game. Playoff Rondo registered nine points, eight assists, and three steals, moving into ninth all-time on the NBA’s career playoff assists list. The one-time Wildcat passed Kobe Bryant on Tuesday.

Game 4 is Thursday night.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Jamal Murray (DEN)114-106 W vs. LAL2810-17 (4-8)812204+843
Anthony Davis (LAL)106-114 L @ DEN279-17 (0-4)21103+442
Rajon Rondo (LAL)106-114 L @ DEN94-10 (0-3)28304-1329

TONIGHT IN THE BUBBLE

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – MIA leads 2-1

8:30 (ESPN): [3] Celtics (Kanter) @ [5] Heat (Adebayo, Herro)

The Boston Celtics managed to keep things interesting after a dramatic Game 3 win over the Miami Heat. Both sides received a three-day break for scheduling purposes, so they should have a bit more gas in the tank than usual. With Gordon Hayward back in the lineup for Boston, the series has shifted slightly in the Cetlics favor and they have the momentum heading into Wednesday night. Their emotional outburst following the Game 2 defeat is long in the past. In reality, the Celtics could very easily be up 2-1 or even 3-0 in this series. Game 4 should be wildly entertaining.

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR