Outscored by the Nuggets again in the clutch, the Lakers faced a 3-0 deficit

Dave McMenaminESPN staff writerMay 21, 2023, 02:10 AM ET3 minutes of reading

LOS ANGELES — For the third time in the Western Conference Finals, the decision was decided in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t get the job done.

Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the West’s No. 1 seed, 119-108, may have had different details than L.A.’s two losses in Denver to open the series, but the common theme was the same: The Nuggets did more when it mattered most. .

Now, with one more loss to end their season, a Lakers team that started the season 2-10, completely overhauled the roster just before the All-Star break, and hopes to have one more improbable run left.

LeBron James, who finished with 23 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds, said he missed 11 of 19 shots, including four of six in the fourth quarter. “One thing at a time. Focus on Game 4, you know, you can really think about it.”

If there was a game to win, it looked like it would be reached on Saturday. The Lakers were at home, where they have yet to lose this postseason. Nuggets star Nikola Jokic made as many fouls as he made field goals (four) in the first three quarters. Anthony Davis (28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, 18 rebounds) made an impact.

But with the game tied, the Lakers used a 13-0 run at the 7:48 mark of the fourth quarter to put the Lakers out of bounds for 4:50. Jokic was the best player on the court to close it out with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the fourth.

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According to ESPN’s research, NBA teams are 0-149 when trailing 3-0 in best-of-seven series, and the Lakers haven’t forced a Game 5 while in this stretch. Statistics & Information.

LA trailed by three in the final minute in both Games 1 and 2. And the Lakers took their chances in Game 3, taking the lead in the fourth. The Nuggets have continued to outscore the Lakers to the point where the gap between the two teams has turned into Game 4.

“I think it was their role players’ timely shots,” James said when asked what made the difference.

Along with James, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points), Bruce Brown (15 points) and Michael Porter Jr. (14 points) all had their moments on Saturday. Brown was 8-of-13 (3-of-7 on 3s), according to data compiled by ESPN Stats and Information; Caldwell-Pope was 11-of-17 (5-of-11 on 3s) and Porter Jr. was 8-of-15 (7-of-11 on 3s) on open shots in the series.

The Lakers didn’t get the same good contributions from their roster in Game 3 with D’Angelo Russell (three points on 1-for-8 shooting), Jarrett Vanderbilt (two points on 1-for-4 shooting) and Dennis. Schroeder (five points on 2-of-5 shooting) is all struggling on offense.

“For me? Oh, I don’t know,” Russell said when asked what he needs to change in his approach to be effective against Denver. “Actually I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ll try to find out.”

The Lakers have done a good job of figuring things out on the fly this offseason, first earning a play-in spot with a group of new faces while James missed a month late in the season with a foot injury and then became. The second seed to reach the conference finals. 7th place. They’ve committed to the trek long enough to still have games on the schedule.

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“We can come out on Monday and go home or fight another day, and with the group of guys we’ve got, I know what that answer will be,” said Austin Reaves, who finished with 20 points in the third. Time in three games in the series.

The odds are not in LA’s favor, of course. Almost two-thirds of teams have always lost 3-0 (91 of 149). Only three of those teams forced a Game 7.

The Lakers will hold a film session Sunday and return to work Monday for Game 4, hoping to extend the season into Tuesday and beyond.

“The circumstances are what they are,” Lakers coach Darwin Hamm said. “Difficult but not impossible.”

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