NBA Conference finals: Murray propels Nuggets past Lakers

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Jamal Murray took the spotlight in the Western Conference finals on Thursday night, propelling the Denver Nuggets to a 108-103 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2-0 lead in the series.

Murray scored 27 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, sinking seven three-pointers in the final stages of the game.

His teammate, the former two-time MVP winner, Nikola Jokic said: “he was special, he won us the game basically”.

LeBron James, however, lamented from the losing side.

“He made shots at the end of the clock. We guard for 24 seconds and he made two big-time shots, one over (Anthony Davis) and one over me.

“He had his 3-point shot going in the fourth. It’s no surprise to me, he’s done it before. Sometimes it’s a never-miss league.

“It would have been a lot easier if I had made them in the first half,” Murray quipped back.

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Jamal Murray explodes for 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists to help the Nuggets to a Game 2 victory over the Lakers

Head coach Michael Malone also had faith in his player. He knew that when Murray finally found the net, many more buckets would follow.

“We all know … he just has to see one go in,” Malone said, and when that happened, “he kind of looked up to the heavens and that’s all he needs. And after that he’s shooting into a hula hoop.”

He wasn’t the only Denver play exposing the cracks in the Lakers defence. Jokic was also devastating within the paint, notching 23 points, 17 rebounds and a dozen assists a day after ESPN side-line reporter Lisa Salters acknowledged she’d never seen him play before.

“For those that don’t know him, he’s got 13 playoff triple-doubles now,” Malone sneered after Game 2. “It’s just incredible what he continues to do on a nightly basis on the biggest stage in the world.”

Malone was also plenty miffed by the Lakers getting all the pub.

“You win Game 1 and all everybody talked about was the Lakers,” Malone said. “Let’s be honest, the national narrative was, ‘Hey, the Lakers are fine. They’re down 1-0, but they figured something out.

“No one talked about how Nikola just had an historic performance. He’s got 13 (playoff) triple-doubles now, third all-time. What he’s doing is just incredible.

“But their narrative wasn’t about the Nuggets. The narrative wasn’t about Nikola. The narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustments. So you know, you put that in your pipe and you smoke it, you come back and you know what, we’re gonna go up 2-0.”

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Highlights of the Los Angeles Lakers against the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals series

The collective narrative can hardly be blamed. The Lakers looked sharp in several departments, as if they were a few tweaks away from wrestling back home court advantage.

Rui Hachimura’s outstanding defence on Jokic in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss on Tuesday was one of those areas, leading many to believe coach Darvin Ham would start Hachimura to try to stymie the Nuggets’ star center from the start. But instead he came off the bench again, scoring 17 first-half points but just four thereafter.

James and Austin Reaves both scored 22 for Los Angeles. Davis was only able to rack up 18 after pouring in 40 in the opener.

The Nuggets have never been this close to reaching the NBA Finals in their history. Game 3 is in the early hours of Sunday morning at Arena, where James and the Lakers are 8-0 in the playoffs, live on Sky Sports Arena from 1:30am.

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