Jamal Murray Makes 2nd Game-Winning Shot Of Series As The Nuggets Send Lakers Home In Back-to-Back Seasons

After LeBron James sank two clutch free throws to tie the game at 106-106 with 26 seconds left, Jamal Murray went on to hit another game-winning pull up jump shot, to lead the Nuggets to a 108-106 victory, sealing the series, 4-1.

Michael Malone ad Jamal Murray

Murray, who ended the night with a game-high 32 points (13-of-28 FG), also made a buzzer-beater last week in Game 2, when the Nuggets beat the Lakers, 101-99.

To note, Murray was actually questionable coming into tonight’s game with a calf strain.

Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said, “To add to his playoff lore, by having two game-winners in a series is just incredible. And the conversation before the game, without getting into too much detail, was an emotional one about him playing tonight. And as he just told me, he goes ‘I’m glad I played, because I don’t know if we win, if I don’t play tonight.'”

Malone called it, ‘the understatement of the year.’

MVP candidate, Nikola Jokic also added 25 points, 20 rebounds, and nine assists. While Michael Porter Jr. put up 26 points (5-for-7 3P). The Nuggets have now won 12 out of the last 13 games against the Lakers.

“I got to give the Lakers a lot of credit,” Malone stated after the Game 5 win. “That was a hard fought series, a lot harder than that 4-1 final score would indicate, because we had to scrap for every game we won this series.”

Coming into Game 5, despite being down 3-1, the Lakers led most of the series, in particular they held a lead for a total of 136:31 minutes, while the Nuggets had only been leading for 41:53 minutes (tied for 14:07) through the first four games. Furthermore, there has not been one game this series where the Lakers have trailed at halftime. In fact, tonight was the first game that the Lakers did not lead by double-digits, yet they still led by as much as nine with six minutes left in the third quarter. 

To point out, this postseason Anthony Davis has been averaging 30.5 points, 15.8 rebounds and four assists (both playoff career-highs), in addition to 1.5 blocks. At halftime, AD had 16 points (8-of-10 FG), however, at the beginning of the third quarter, he injured his left shoulder, appearing to have suffered a stinger after bumping into Nuggets’ Porter Jr.

Davis said, “You know tonight especially in the situation, where you know I get hit in the shoulder just tough, obviously I was just in a rhythm offensively… It’s an important game, you want to be out there, you know I was just very limited.”

Consequently, because of the injury, the nine-time All-Star only shot one time, scoring just one point in the second half.

Referencing the Lakers’s injury problems this season, Davis went on to say, “It’s very frustrating, just kind of been our thing all year… We are not making any excuses or anything like that, you know Denver is a h*** of a team, you know defending champs, just tough going out like that.” 

As a result of the Lakers’ only rim protector being banged up, the Nuggets were able to make a comeback, as they went on a 14-2 run over the course of a three-minute span at end of the third quarter to take the lead 74-71. 

Throughout the entirety of the series, the Nuggets outscored the Lakers every single game in the third quarter (+38 point differential), while the Lakers outscored the Nuggets in every other quarter (+27 point differential). 

“Credit to their team, they are not an easy out,” the Nuggets coach said. “LeBron James is arguably the greatest player of all time. Anthony Davis is a Hall of Famer, they gave us all we could handle. We did not want to get on that plane and go back to LA [Game 6].”

In his second straight elimination game, LeBron scored 30 points (20th of career), in addition to grabbing nine rebounds, dishing out 11 assists, and swiping four steals. Notably, this was LeBron’s 287th career playoff game (183-104 record), which is actually more games played than 15 active NBA teams. So in his 21-year career, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, by himself, would be ninth on the NBA franchise all-time playoff wins list.

In the first-round playoff series vs. the Nuggets, as the current oldest player in the NBA, 39-year-old LeBron, averaged 27.8 points (56.6 FG%; 38.5 3P%), 8.8 assists, 6.8 rebounds, 2.4 steals, and one block per game.

James stated after the playoff-eliminating loss, “They made plays down the stretch to win the series, so give credit where credit is due.”

With 3:05 left in the game, the score was tied 99-99, Davis blocked Jokic’s close range shot which was called a foul, but the Lakers challenged the call, and it was overturned.

To clarify, the rule is that you need to have a timeout to challenge a play, but if you win the challenge, somehow according to the rules (NBA Rule No. 14, Section V-b), if it’s your second challenge of the game, you will not get to keep the timeout even if successful. So since the referees made the wrong call, the Lakers got the consequence of having no timeouts left down the stretch. Fast forward to four seconds left in the game, after Murray hit the go-ahead shot, the Lakers inbounded the ball down 108-106, and without a timeout, they were not able to advance it to half court.

As a result, the purple and gold’s season ended, and the second-seeded Nuggets now move on to the conference semifinal playoff round, in which they will face the third-seeded Timberwolves Saturday, May 4 for Game 1.

With attention to LeBron’s future, when reporters asked the 20-time All-Star if he’s played his final game with the Lakers, he answered, “I’m not going to answer that.”

LeBron currently is under a 2-year/$99 million contract, with a player option for this summer. As he will be 40 years old next season, and with the questions of his oldest son Bronny James possibly entering the draft this next year, LeBron could very easily decide to sign somewhere else, maybe wherever his son gets drafted. 

AD was asked about LeBron’s upcoming decision, “You know if he does [resign] obviously our goal is to come back and be a championship contender, stay healthy and give Laker nation what they deserve, but he has a decision to make, and when the time comes he will inform me and inform you guys.”

As the free agency frenzy will increase as the summer goes on, there will certainly be moves to be made this offseason, which could include Lakers’ head coach Darvin Ham (90-74 record), whose job is reportedly “in serious peril.” After two straight seasons of losing in the playoffs to the Nuggets, the second-year head coach is “highly unlikely” to return to Los Angeles, per Shams Charania.

Nuggets coach Malone, who previously seemed to have some beef with Ham after trash-talking the Lakers in last year’s playoff series, came to the opposing coach’s defense after tonight’s game. 

“I think Darvin Ham is a h*** of a coach,” Malone said. “That’s not an easy job, and I think Darvin does it with class, and I think he and his staff deserve credit for that. He’s a good man, good coach, and I wish him all the best. Hopefully he’ll be around there for a long time because he deserves to be.”

Maybe Malone wants the Lakers to not make any changes, as the Nuggets are now 8-1 vs. Ham after winning this season’s first-round playoff matchup (4-1), and sweeping LA in last year’s Western Conference finals (4-0).

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