Nuggets beat Lakers 108-103 for 2-0 lead in West finals

DENVER — After Nikola Jokic’s monster game in the opener, his pick-and-roll partner Jamal Murray took the spotlight in the Western Conference finals Friday morning (PH time), May 19, 2023.

Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, 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.

“He was special,” Jokic said. “He won us the game basically.”

Murray missed 12 of his 17 shots through three quarters but found his touch in the fourth, going 6 for 7, including four 3-pointers, and fueling a 15-1 run that gave Denver a 96-84 lead.

“He made shots at the end of the clock,” LeBron James lamented. “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.”

In all, Denver sank seven 3s in the fourth quarter after hitting seven all night.

“It would have been a lot easier if I had made them in the first half,” said Murray, who is still playing through an earache he hasn’t been able to shake since Round 2.

Jokic added 23 points, 17 rebounds and a dozen assists a day after ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters handed the Nuggets the no-respect card by acknowledging that she’d never seen the two-time MVP play before Game 1, when he had 34 points, 21 boards and 14 assists.

“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.”

As for Jokic, he brushed off the slights on him and his teammates, saying, “It’s nothing new for us.”

Malone was 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.”

The Nuggets have never been this close to reaching the NBA Finals in their history. Game 3 is Saturday night (Sunday morning PH time) at Arena, where James and the Lakers are 8-0 in the playoffs.

The Nuggets improved to 41-8 at home, best in the NBA, including 8-0 in the playoffs. (AP)