NBA: James, Davies helps Lakers end losing streak to Nuggets; put series at 3-1

NBA: James, Davies helps Lakers end losing streak to Nuggets; put series at 3-1

It looked like it would never happen, but it finally did as the Los Angeles Lakers found the answer to their Denver Nuggets problem with a 119-108 win on Sunday night at Arena in Game 4 of their Western Conference first-round matchup.

The Nuggets had won eleven straight against the Lakers and were facing elimination from the playoffs in the first round if they faltered for the 12th straight time. However, it wasn’t to be as four of the Lakers’ starters scored at least 20 points to propel them to a huge win as they avoided being swept by the defending champions.

None other than the duo of LeBron James and Anthny Davies were at the forefront of the Lakers’ triumph, as they both combined for 55 points as the 17-time champions finally held on to a double-digit for the first time in the series, unlike the previous three games where they wilted under pressure.

James, who had never lost to the same opponent eleven straight times, wasn’t ready to let go of that record as he finished with 30 points. The 39-year-old scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on 6-of-8 shooting from the field to ensure they held on to their lead in front of their home fans.

“We’ve given ourselves another lifeline, and it’s a one-game series for us,” James said. “Monday’s game is the most important game of the season for us, and we understand that.”

Davies, on the other hand, has not put a foot wrong all series long, finishing with 25 points and six assists while also tying his playoff career-high 23 rebounds in a dominant performance that saw him shoot 64.7% from the field on 11-of-17 shooting.

“It’s tough to get swept,” Davis said. “Nobody wants that feeling, especially going to the summer. You’ve got to live with that feeling for the rest of the summer. So, we didn’t really talk about it. We know what’s at stake. Nobody wants that feeling in your mouth for the rest of the summer. The way we played tonight is the way we have to play the rest of the series.”

Austin Reaves has looked comfortable in the two games played in Los Angeles, finishing with 21 points and six assists, while D’Angelo Russell, who was 0-of-7 from the field in Game 2, finished with 21 points and shot four 3s.

The Lakers really showed out in Game 4, shooting 52.2% from the field as a team. They missed just three of their 18 free throw attempts, outrebounded the Nuggets 46-40, especially on the defensive end (38-31), and forced them to 14 turnovers, one more than Game 3.

However, the most impressive stat of the game was in scoring inside the paint, where they bullied Denver with a whooping 20-point difference, shooting 72-52, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone was clearly infuriated as his talks during the timeouts seemed ineffective.

“The paint defense was a joke,” Malone said “Every huddle, I sounded like a broken record tonight.

“Every huddle was, ‘Paint, paint, paint.’ [In] Game 3, they had 70 and we found a way to win. Tonight, they had 72. That’s an incredible number. I just didn’t think we had the requisite physicality or urgency. This did not seem like a closeout game.”

Denver, led by last season’s Finals’ MVP Nikola Jokic, who got his 18th playoff career triple-double and his second in this series with 33 points and 14 rebounds, started slowly once again, a predicament that has been visible all through the series.

“Of course we want to [start faster], but I learned in horse racing, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Jokic said. “We didn’t finish today really well, so hopefully we can do a better job. But yes, we want to be up and control the game, but it seems like that didn’t happen to us.”

“They were really pushing the pace,” he added. “They had open layups. They were destroying us in the paint. We couldn’t make a shot. They couldn’t make a shot either [at times], but it seems like that affected our defense a lot. That’s a great team.”

Michael Porter Jr., who has been consistent throughout the series, finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and four 3s; Jamal Murray, the hero of Game 2, added 22 points, but he continues to struggle with his shooting as he was 9-of-23 from the field; and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 14 points.

The Nuggets swept the Lakers last time they met in the playoffs in last season’s Western Conference Finals, and although they’ve failed to do so this season, they are presented with an opportunity to win the series on homecourt when they play Game 5 on Monday night in Ball Arena in Denver.

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