Lakers blow 20-point lead in 101-99 loss to Nuggets in Game 2, LA’s losing streak to champs reaches 10 games

Jamal Murray hit a buzzer-beater and the Denver Nuggets overcame a 20-point deficit to stun the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 to take a commanding 2-0 series on Monday night at Ball Arena.

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DENVER, CO – APRRIL 22: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers, Aaron Gordon #50 and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets look on during the game during Round 1 Game 2 of the 2024 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2024 at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Maybe it was the altitude.

Jamal Murray hit a buzzer-beater and the Denver Nuggets overcame a 20-point deficit to stun the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead on Monday night at Ball Arena.

“Of course this was a heartbreaking game,” said a shocked LeBron James after the loss. “You never want to lose a game in that fashion.”

The Lakers led for most of the game, including by 20 points early in the third quarter. But as they inevitably do, the defending champions got up off the mat and rallied to cut the lead to 10 points entering the fourth quarter.

That’s when two-time MVP Nikola Jokic took over and the Nuggets tied the game with just over a minute remaining.

Both teams took turns trading baskets until LeBron James missed a three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining, giving Murray the chance to complete the comeback.

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“Jamal Murray hit a tough shot,” said a disappointing Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham after the game. “Fading away towards the baseline to his right over AD [Anthony Davis] with his and outstretched trying to contest. The kid hit a tough shot.”

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds. He played with a chip on his shoulder all night after it was announced earlier in the day that he was not selected as a finalist for the NBA’s annual Defensive Player of the Year Award this season. Davis started the game shooting 14-of-15 from the field.

“We’ve shown that we’re more than capable,” said Davis when asked about how he thought the Lakers have played in the first two games of the series on the road. “We’ve also had stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

Despite Davis’ excellent game, he was overshadowed by the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. “The Joker” finished with a triple-double scoring 27 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists. Murray had 20 points, but none bigger than his buzzer-beater. Unlike in Game 1, the Lakers got support from their role players in Game 2.

D’Angelo Russell, who broke the Lakers single-season record for three-pointers this year, struggled in Game 1 on Saturday shooting a paltry 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Russell was red-hot from deep in Game 2. He started 6-for-6 from distance and finished with 23 points.

“I made shots,” said Russell of his performance in Game 2. “I made shots that I took the first game and missed. I’m gonna keep shooting. My teammates trust me so I’m gonna try not to let them down.”

Game 2 started similarly to the opener on Saturday. The Lakers got out to a fast start and opened up a double-digit lead. They extended that lead to 20 points early in the third quarter before the champs rallied and answered the bell.

“We know they are a great offensive power team. We know they’re going to get into rhythm at some point we know they’re going to make runs especially on their home floor. We just have to withstand it,” said James. “Obviously, we gave up a 20 point lead. That’s unfortunate, but a 20 point lead in this league is not safe, especially against the defending champions.”

Denver went on an 11-0 run midway through the third quarter to cut the lead to single digits.

“That’s a tough team. You have to come with it,” said Ham. “You cannot take any possession off. We have to be on deck at all times against this ball club.”

They cut the lead to just two points with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but LeBron drained back-to-back three-pointers to stop the bleeding.

For the second straight game, the Lakers lost the rebounding battle 51-43 and were out-scored in the paint, 54-38.

The Lakers have lost 10 consecutive games to the Nuggets and six straight in the playoffs dating back to Denver’s four-game sweep in the Western Conference Finals last May.

The series now shifts to Hollywood in what appears to be a thrilling and hard-fought battle between two excellent teams, but the mental advantage is clearly on the side of the Nuggets who have the Lakers number.

You have to wonder if LeBron and the Lake Show are questioning on the flight home whether or not they will ever be able to beat this team as it’s currently constructed.

The Lakers need to continue to find ways to neutralize Jokic, while Denver needs to deal with Davis and James. The answer might be to pursue a war of attrition against the dynamic duo after they each played a lot more than 40 minutes in altitude in the first two games of the series.

Meanwhile for the Lakers, to spoil Denver’s title defense, they need to stymie and suffocate the Nuggets starting five and be able to hold up under the physical burden of playing heavy minutes against a superior opponent over the span of a seven-game series.

“Win game three. It’s that simple. Win. Game. Three.” said Davis.

Game 3 of the series tips off on Thursday night from Crypto.com arena at 7:00PM PT.

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