One Win Away: Lakers on the Doorsteps of the NBA Finals


Photo by Mark J Terrill of Associated Press

Anthony Davis (3) is contested heavily by Paul Millsap (4) while pulling up for the jumper

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL– The Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from the promised land and NBA royalty. Taking an early lead in the first quarter, the Lakers held on the rest of the way to defeat the Denver Nuggets 114-108 and now have a daunting 3-1 series lead. While Denver is no stranger to coming back from 3-1 series deficits (they’ve done so twice in these playoffs), LeBron James has never blown a 3-1 lead in a series. With championship number 4 being the only thing on his mind, the Lakers can rest assured he is going to give it his all to close out this series.

The Lakers came out of the locker room with deadly determination. The Lakers nearly scored 40 in total during the opening quarter and it was largely thanks to the best duo in the NBA. LeBron & AD combined for a whopping 24 points in just the opening quarter and they also got a helpful hand from Center Dwight Howard, as he also dished 8 points himself. While Howard enjoyed 8 points in the quarter, he would only score 4 more the rest of the way. But it wasn’t Howard’s offense that was the story, it was his defense. Howard was on Denver’s star Nikola Jokic throughout much of the contest and he was a big reason as to why Jokic only scored 16 the entire game. While the Lakers limited Jokic, stopping Jamal Murray on the other hand was a different task. In the 1st quarter, Murray erupted for 12 points and was nearly impossible to stop throughout the game. Murray’s 12 points were great for Denver, but it wasn’t enough as no other Nugget scored more than 6 and they would exit the quarter trailing 30-37.

Jamal Murray (27) dishes out the aggressive pass while surrounded by Purple & Gold (Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz of The Denver Post)

The 2nd quarter would be the most lackluster quarter of the night for the Lakers. LA only scored 23 in total and no player, including LeBron & AD, scored more than 5 points. This could quite possibly be since AD played 12 minutes in the 1st quarter, meaning he was gassed in the 2nd, so the Lakers certainly lacked offensive firepower. Denver on the other hand too struggled offensively in the 2nd quarter. They only scored 25, but Nikola Jokic scored half of all his points in the 2nd quarter alone. Jokic’s 2nd quarter mini-eruption could be due to Dwight Howard only playing 5 minutes in the quarter, and he was the key to stopping Jokic. Jokic led the Nuggets in scoring during the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit as Denver went into the locker room trailing 60-55.

While Denver would come close in the 2nd half, they could never repossess the league. The Lakers didn’t score as many points in the 2nd half as they did in the 1st half, but the sense of urgency was most definitely present. Denver’s Jamal Murray got so hot in the 2nd half, scoring 16, that LeBron decided to guard him the rest of the way. Murray, who is 23 years old, is closer to LeBron James’ son’s age than he is to LeBron’s age. For LeBron to guard the much quicker and younger Murray and not miss a beat is nothing short of incredible. Speaking of the pure awe of King James, LeBron & AD combined for 27 points in the second half to extend the Lakers’ promising lead.

What also was encouraging to see for LA was the other guys once again get involved. Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has enjoyed quite a series, tallied 10 points in the second half while fellow guard Rajon Rondo registered 11 points himself to go along with 4 assists and rebounds all in the second half. Ever since the Game 1 loss to Portland in the opening round, the consistency of the Lakers’ bench has been much much more improved. They would be the reason why the Lakers would lose a game, but now they’re a key component to why the Lakers will win a game. The assistance from the bench wouldn’t just come from the offensive spectrum either. Dwight Howard was the biggest key for LA stopping the red-hot Nikola Jokic, as Jokic was limited to only 16 points. While Jamal Murray picked up the slack with 32 points, the Nuggets would miss the scoring from Jokic and they wouldn’t be able to come back as the Lakers took home the 114-108 Game 4 win.

Dwight Howard (39), who had a big game, throws down the emphatic slam (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant of Getty Images)

Just like that, the Los Angeles Lakers are one win away from their first NBA Finals in 10 years. It would be a monumental achievement for the Lakers who have had to deal with the most adversity a potential Finals team has ever faced. From not having a consistent shooter in a shooter’s league, to the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, to the pandemic itself, it has been a roller coaster ride for the Lakers. But alas Laker fans, LeBron James has returned the franchise to the prosperity and royalty it deserves. All that being said, this series is still not over. Denver has come back from 3-1 twice just this postseason, so who’s to say they can’t do it again? Well, LeBron & Co. will get to have their say very soon as Game 5 is scheduled for September 26th at 6 pm on TNT.