Lakers stave off playoff elimination while ending 11-game losing streak against Nuggets (2024)

LOS ANGELES – Lakers in seven, anyone?

LeBron James and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers did more than stave off playoff elimination while ending an 11-game losing streak to the Denver Nuggets Saturday night. Their 119-108 victory in Game 4 of the first-round NBA playoff series gives them hope heading into Game 5 Monday in Denver.

Game 6 will be Thursday in Los Angeles.

Game 7 will be Saturday in Denver.

And, sorry, folks. Laker fever was sweeping through Arena like the Nuggets, the defending NBA champions, were supposed to sweep the Lakers out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

“Beautiful day to be alive to stay alive,’’ Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

Could these Lakers live long enough to become the first team in NBA history to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0?

As delusional as it might sound, a look back at Game 4 provides a potential blueprint.

Lakers stave off playoff elimination while ending 11-game losing streak against Nuggets (1)

Put the ball in the hoop - a lot

LeBron James arrived for his postgame news conference wearing a stylish white bucket hat. It was a fitting hat considering he made plenty of stylish buckets against the Nuggets – and with great accuracy.

The Lakers shot 52.2 percent from the floor (48-for-92) and the 119 points was their second-highest output against Nuggets over the last 12 games the teams have played.

James was spectacular with 30 points on 14-for-23 shooting.

Anthony Davis was stellar with 25 points on 11-for-17 shooting to go along with 23 rebounds.

But the difference was guard D’Angelo Russell. Coming off his horrid performance in Game 3 during which he missed all seven of his shots, Russell scored 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range.(In Game 3, he was 0-for-6 from 3-point range.)

Said Russell, "I try to prepare myself for these times now when everybody’s watching and everybody has something to say.''

Ham had something to say about Russell's performance.

“I loved it,’’ the Lakers coach said, then recalled a pregame encounter. “I told him (Russell) to go crazy. Be confident, you’ve been doing this your whole life. Go crazy and be aggressive.

“He looked at me and his little nickname for me is Big Dog. He said, ‘I got you, Big Dog. Gotch you.' Shook my hand, gave me a hug and did what he did tonight.’’

The dreaded third quarter

The Lakers started the third quarter by missing their first three shots, and Lakers fans surely were muttering, “Here we go again.’’

For the fourth consecutive game, the Lakers led at the half – this time 61-48. But in each of the previous three games, the Nuggets had outscored the Lakers in the third quarter, by a combined score of 91-60, to propel them to victory.

Russell said the Lakers made a “third-quarter adjustment,’’ in part by prioritizing getting a good warmup before the quarter started.

Never mind those first three missed shots when the quarter actually began. The Lakers showed an energy and focus they’d previously lacked coming out for the second half.

Russell said the idea was to attack. “Not getting on our heels and letting them attack us,’’ he said.

Yes,Denver outscored Los Angeles in the third quarter, 32-30. But the Lakers emerged with an 11-point lead and confidence heading into the fourth quarter.

“We’ve been talking about it,’’ James said of the team’s third-quarter struggles. “It’s been something that’s been an Achilles heel for us all season."

A solid third quarter was key, James said.

“That definitely helped us going into the fourth and the fourth for me is just a mindset to try to close it out,’’ he said.

James did just that, delivering two clutch plays in the final minutes to help close out the victory.

What else went right?

Davis went toe-to-toe with Nikola Jokic again. The Nuggets star center nearly turned in a triple-double with 33 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. But Davis responded with 25 points and 23 rebounds. As a result, the Lakers outrebounded the Nuggets 46-40.

“Totally just dominant,’’ Ham said of Davis. “Dominant."

The Lakers avoided their signature stretches of demoralization that plagued them during recent games against the Nuggets. A bad shot leading to two more, or a turnover followed by players jogging rather than sprinting back on defense.

As James noted after the game, the Lakers gave up only 12 fastbreak points, five second-chance points and nine offensive rebounds.

“We’ve had great stretches against this team,’’ Ham said of the Nuggets. “We’ve played good segments. We’ve just never quite put together the complete game."

But they finally did it Saturday.

And to make history, they need to do it only three more times in a row.

Lakers stave off playoff elimination while ending 11-game losing streak against Nuggets (2024)
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