The Lakers led most of the way but a fourth-quarter push by the Denver Nuggets was the difference maker as L.A. drops Game 2, 108-103.
After the collapse, the Lakers now face a 0-2 deficit as the series shifts to Los Angeles.
Game 2 was aggressive and contentious from the jump. The Nuggets found themselves in early foul trouble with their starting wings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. earning two early fouls each.
Darvin Ham wasn't slow to make adjustments in the series as he shuffled his starting lineup by inserting Jarred Vanderbilt into the starting lineup. As a result, the Lakers were noticeably bigger and better with their half-court defense.
As the opening frame progressed, D’Angelo Russell, a player rumored to be in danger of getting benched, started heating up. He had six points in the first quarter and hit 3-4 from the charity stripe. His only blemish early was a questionable flagrant foul on Jamal Murray.
Michael Malone didn’t seem too worried about Rui Hachimura after his role in the Lakers’ comeback in Game 1, but Hachimura proved his strong play wasn't a fluke. He started the game perfect from the field with 17 points. Not only did he continue to make Nikola Jokić work on defense, but his offense was critical as he finished with 21 points.
The Lakers came out hot in the second quarter with a 9-0 run as Jokic sat. Despite missing a layup and breakaway dunk, LeBron James was once again productive on the offensive end as he helped lead the team’s second unit and give the Lakers a slim lead at the half.
Austin Reaves scored the first five points in the third quarter to create a cushion. In contrast, Denver struggled to get anything going offensively.
The Nuggets finally got some scoring from their role players as after a five-point burst from Bruce Brown and a make from Murray, the game was tied.
Despite struggling all game, it was Murray who stepped up with the game in the balance as he drilled multiple threes in closing minutes to create separation on the scoreboard. Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter alone.
The Lakers remained close down the stretch as a miraculous banked-in three from Austin Reaves brought the Lakers back within two in the final minute. However, Murray converted on his pair of free throws and after a miss from Davis in the corner and another blown layup by James, Denver had the victory secured.
Getting outscored 20-5 to start the fourth quarter is unacceptable. You won’t win a game much less a series against the top-seeded Nuggets with a letdown like that. The Nuggets’ shot-making simply was better down the stretch as the Lakers' one-two punch of James and Davis was unavailable when it mattered most.
L.A. will have to figure out how to bounce back quickly as Saturday’s home game is now a must-win scenario.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.