Good, bad & ugly: Nuggets face another 3-1 deficit as the Lakers run away with Game 4

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) walks with guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the second half against the Denver Nuggets in game four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena.
Sep 24, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) walks with guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the second half against the Denver Nuggets in game four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets picked up their first win of the series in Game 3 when they got off to a great start before the Los Angeles Lakers went on a run and made it a close game.

Eventually, the Nuggets allowed Los Angeles back in, but closed them out to pick up the 114-106 win to make it a 2-1 series.

Foul calls were the difference in Game 3 as the Lakers felt as if LeBron James did not receive his fair share of calls and wanted it addressed in a crucial Game 4.

LeBron got back to the foul line, and Los Angeles won the rebounding battle, which led to a 114-108 Lakers victory.

With the Nuggets facing yet another 3-1 series deficit, I give you the good, bad and ugly.

Good – Jamal Murray’s ascension

In these playoffs, Jamal Murray has ascended himself from a great player into superstar territory.

Murray had a historical postseason against the Utah Jazz, was extraordinary against the Los Angeles Clippers, and has continued to shine against the Lakers.

Murray put up 28 points and 12 assists in the Nuggets game 3 win, and the Lakers did all that they could to slow him down in Game 4, but he got off to an excellent start and did not look back from there.

The Nuggets franchise player has been Denver’s leading scorer in the playoffs and continued on that path as he kept the Nuggets in the game and gave his team a chance to win.

Los Angeles had no answer for Murray as he got going from deep, attacked in isolation situations in addition to finding the open man for easy baskets.

Murray kept the Nuggets afloat in the first half as he finished with 16 points and had multiple highlight finishes.

In the second half, he continued to get it done as Murray has continued to find ways to attack the paint. He also had plays where he locked in defensively and that’s when the Nuggets went on their run.

Before the game, head coach Michael Malone said that while he has been dazzled by his offense, but on the defensive end is where he has impressed him most.

Murray played lockdown defense and continues to progress in these playoffs and show that he is one of the best young players in the league.

Murray finished with 32 points and eight assists in the loss and tried everything he could to even up the series.

LeBron took on the challenge and switched onto Murray in the 4th quarter to limit his looks.

Murray went right at the six-time All-Defense team member and finished with 10 points in the frame while also getting others involved with his passing.

Win, lose, or draw, Murray has been a player that has opened plenty of eyes with his play in the bubble and is evolving into a superstar before our eyes.

Bad – Anthony Davis’ hot start

Much of the talk in Game 3 was about how Anthony Davis struggled in the game, especially rebounding the ball.

The Nuggets again did a great job of keeping Davis off the boards in Game 4 as he went into the second frame without a rebound for the second-straight time, but he got off to a blazing-hot start offensively.

Davis came out extremely hot and forced his will beginning from the opening tip.

The Lakers’ forward had 14 points in the first quarter and established himself inside early on.

There were leaners, step-backs, mid-range pull-ups, and finishes through contact as he wanted to make it abundantly clear that he is a perennial All-Start and one of the best players in the world.

Davis pushed the pace against the Nuggets as his Lakers teammates fed him on nearly every possession to begin the game, and he started with six-straight to give the Lakers a lead heading into the second frame.

The Nuggets sent different looks and were efficient themselves, but they allowed Davis to get to his spots and he made them pay.

LeBron also got going simultaneously, and the Lakers’ two best players gave Los Angeles room for cushion early on which is a recipe for disaster.

If the Lakers can get Davis to go 6-6 from the field with LeBron carving up the defense with his scoring and setting up teammates, a seven-point deficit to conclude the opening quarter will be the least of their concerns, and Game 5 will be the end of a long season.

Ugly – A whistle reversed

One of the biggest headlines heading into the game was the Lakers presenting a case to the NBA league office after LeBron went to the free-throw only two times in Los Angeles’ Game 3 loss.

Los Angeles felt as if their superstar was not getting a fair shake on calls and wanted the league to look at it.

Well, after the Nuggets Game 4 defeat, it is safe to say that the referees listened as it appeared to work in the Lakers’ favor.

LeBron might not have got the whistle he wanted in Game 3, but in Game 4, the referees made up for those missed calls. The three-time champion went to the free throw line 14 times in the game with eight of those shots coming in the final quarter.

As a team, Los Angeles went to the free throw line 35 times, which was reminiscent of Game 1.

The free throw discrepancy put the Nuggets in a bind for the entire game, and with that, foul trouble accompanied them.

Nikola Jokic had to sit for a majority of the fourth quarter due to foul trouble. Although the Nuggets survived those minutes, it forced Jokic not to be as aggressive defensively, and it got the Lakers in the bonus in a hurry.

The Nuggets all of a sudden stopped getting a fair whistle despite multiple questionable plays.

Other mysterious calls in the fourth quarter happened as well that were momentum-changing such as Murray’s block on Rajon Rondo, which turned into a 2-on-1 that was ruled a shot clock violation.

There was also a play where Paul Millsap defended Davis on a pull-up jumper in which Davis rolled his ankle on the play, and Millsap was called for a foul.

Officiating was not the most significant issue as the Lakers were a force on the boards and dominated the offensive rebounding battle for extra scoring opportunities.

Still, those are plays that the Nuggets will surely want to get back as they turned into advantages for the Lakers.

The Nuggets, now for the third time in this same postseason, face a 3-1 deficit.

With history again not on their side, if this team has shown us anything, they should never be counted out.

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