Game Five Preview: Lakers look to close series against Nuggets

Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It’s been a gritty, physical series so far between the Lakers and Nuggets. It’s also a series that may have been more competitive than many would have thought going into it, as an Anthony Davis buzzer-beating game-winner may be the only reason that this series isn’t tied 2-2.

Either way, it’s not 2-2, as the Lakers will look to win tonight to advance to their 32nd NBA Finals in franchise history and their first since the 2010 NBA Finals where Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in seven games. The Lakers are up 3-1 on the Nuggets, a situation that is not new to the underdogs. The Nuggets have been down 3-1 in each of their two previous series, winning three straight to eliminate both the Jazz and the Clippers.

Here’s our preview of what could be a special night for the Lakers

The health of LeBron James and Anthony Davis

As I said, this series has been physical with possibly its roughest game happening on Thursday. LeBron James and Anthony Davis came out of the game banged up as head coach Frank Vogel said yesterday that both have been dealing with “some soreness” (reported by Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll). Davis turned his left ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4, as it looked like a pretty bad sprain at the time. He also was poked in the eye in the first quarter, but that appeared to stop bothering him pretty quickly. LeBron James has been on the injury report as probable for most of the playoffs with a sore groin, but it sounds like LeBron was kneed in the thigh at some point in Game 4 as opposed to this being a groin issue.

You have to wonder how both injuries are affecting the Lakers’ superstars, as both didn’t seem 100% in the closing moments of Game 4. LeBron did not look well for most of the night, as his offensive game was lacking. Of course, I say that about a man who had 26 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists, but that’s just LeBron. He’s always going to get the stats, especially when he gets to the free-throw line 14 times in one game. It’s hard to not look at his field-goal percentage (38.9%) as LeBron’s jumper has looked flat as of late.

It’ll be key to see how well the two are moving early on in the game.

Jamal Murray continues to impress

One of the main reasons that the Nuggets were able to upset the Jazz and the Clippers has been the elevated play of the 23-year-old Jamal Murray. He had his most electrifying game of these Western Conference Finals on Thursday, including one of the best layups you’ll ever see that begged comparisons to Michael Jordan. He had 32 points (8-for-8 on FTs) and 8 assists in Thursday’s game, with the Nuggets needing three straight performances like that if they are to upset the Lakers and move on to the NBA Finals.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Lakers can continue their decent fourth quarter defense against him from Thursday. It’s doubtful they’ll be able to do that for an entire game, as the defense highly revolved around LeBron James defending Jamal Murray, an assignment that he apparently asked for. The Lakers will need to limit the points he scores and will need to figure out how to defend him in the high pick-and-roll for a full 48 minute game.

Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. PST. Go Lakers!

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