In what was easily their most disappointing game of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers fell to a 3-0 series deficit against the Denver Nuggets after losing 119-108 on Saturday night.
The deficit in the loss was the largest the Lakers have suffered at the hands of the Nuggets so far over the 3 games, with the Lakers only losing by a combined 20 points so far. The Lakers may be closer to the Nuggets than what the 3-0 hole represents, but “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Despite what history tells us about NBA teams when they have a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs, that doesn’t mean Game 4 won’t be played. The Lakers and their fans will have to get ready for at least one more game at Crypto.com Arena, which will be held on Monday night.
Here’s what to look out for with the Lakers facing their first elimination game since the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
How much heart is left?
Alright, here’s the inevitable statistic of this Game 4 preview: Throughout NBA history, teams are 0-149 on advancing to the next round after being down 3-0 in a series.
For the Lakers to reach the 2023 NBA Finals, they will literally have to make history, becoming the first team to do so.
The team’s members were inevitably going to be asked the impossible task in front of them while at the podium after Saturday’s loss. Here’s some of those responses, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“Just got to get one,” LeBron James said. “Just one at a time. Just focus on Game 4, and you know, that’s all you can really think about.”
“We can either come out Monday and go home or we can fight for another day, and with the group of guys that we’ve got, I know what that answer will be,” said Austin Reaves.
“Circumstances are what they are,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Difficult but not impossible.”
All 3 individuals are saying the right things. All 3 believe that they will be doing the right thing on Monday, which is fighting through all 48 minutes of gameplay to try and emerge as the victor, so they can take a 3-1 series deficit back to Denver.
But will this actually happen?
Darvin Ham may have to make a tough decision for the Lakers to do that, and sadly, it’s a decision he’s refused to make all series long. That decision is taking D’Angelo Russell out of the starting lineup and/or drastically reducing his playing time. Russell has been targeted by the Nuggets’ offense early and often throughout this series, producing great results for them. This wasn’t really a surprise, but Russell has not hit the necessary shots on the other end to validate his playing time, only making 2-14 3-pointers so far.
Who knows what other adjustments the Lakers could make at this point that may give them added advantages, but either way, none of them may matter if the Nuggets’ superstars continue to outplay the Lakers’ superstars.
The statistics for those 4 players over these 3 games can be found below:
- Jamal Murray: 35.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 3.0 steals per game
- Nikola Jokic: 27.0 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 11.3 assists per game
- Anthony Davis: 28.7 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.7 blocks per game
- LeBron James: 23.7 points, 10.3 assists, and 9.3 assists per game
Obviously Davis continues his extremely impressive postseason, following 2-3 seasons of scrutiny from the media about his overall play and availability, but LeBron continues to struggle whether it’s due to his most-likely-still injured foot or his old age.
Whatever the reason, he will have to probably put up totals exceeding all 3 of those box score averages in 4 straight games for the Lakers to come back.
It seems impossible, and it probably is the case. Even if the Lakers end up losing this series, hopefully they will show the same fight and resolve they’ve shown all series — a mentality that Reaves pointed out in his postgame comments — to win Game 4 and avoid the embarrassing sweep.
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers list Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) and LeBron James (right foot soreness) as probable on the injury report.
- Mo Bamba (left ankle soreness) is not listed on the inactive report. Before Saturday’s Game 3, it was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Bamba was expected to be cleared as soon as Game 4 or 5 in the series. Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported that the Lakers expect Mo Bamba to be available for Game 4.
- The Nuggets have no one listed on their injury report.
The Lakers and Nuggets will tip off at 5:30 p.m. PT. The game will be exclusively televised on ESPN.
You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.