LA Lakers one win from first NBA finals since 2010

LeBron scores 26 points and Anthony Davis 34 as Denver Nuggets go 3-1 down in series

LeBron James and the LA Lakers are one win away from the NBA finals. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty

LeBron James and the LA Lakers are one win away from the NBA finals. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty

 

Anthony Davis scored a game-high 34 points, LeBron James added 26 and the Los Angeles Lakers never lost the lead over the final three quarters Thursday night en route to a 114-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals near Orlando.

The top-seeded Lakers hold a 3-1 lead in the series and are within one win of the NBA Finals. Game 5 is scheduled for Saturday.

Jamal Murray paced the Nuggets with 32 points and eight assists, but he misfired on all three of his 3-point attempts.

Los Angeles led each of its previous two series 3-1 before closing out the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets on its first opportunity to advance.

Meanwhile, the third-seeded Nuggets find themselves in familiar territory facing a 3-1 deficit. They also trailed the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers 3-1 in their first two rounds before stunning each with three-game turnarounds to move on.

After losing for the first time in the series on Tuesday, the Lakers led by 10 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second and 11 in the third before the Nuggets rallied within 87-86 on a pair of free throws by Monte Morris with 11:14 remaining in the game.

“I feel like we played with a lot of energy tonight,” Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope told TNT. “Game 3, I feel we had a lack of energy starting the game. I thought tonight we came out strong. We kept a lead the whole game.”

Denver managed to hang within 105-102 and got possession after a Davis turnover. However, James pressured Murray into a short-range miss, and Rajon Rondo countered at the other end for a five-point lead with 2:48 to go.

“He’s a helluva player,” James told TNT before leaving the court, about the challenge of guarding Murray in the fourth quarter. “I just wanted to take the challenge. He’s a tough guard. Just using my athleticism and also just being smart. I’ve been at this a long time.”

“I appreciate the respect,” Murray said about being guarded by James, “but we didn’t win the game.”

The Los Angeles advantage was still five when James missed a jumper with 1:05 to play. However, Caldwell-Pope snatched the offensive rebound and the Nuggets fouled James, whose two foul shots with 59 seconds left opened a 111-104 lead and iced the win.

Free throws by Rondo (one) and Davis (two) then secured the win and put the Lakers one victory away from their first NBA Finals appearance since winning the title in 2010.

Davis, the series’ leading scorer, hit 10 of his 15 shots and went 13-for-14 at the free-throw line. The Lakers, for the second time in the four games, used a large disparity in fouls shots to outscore Denver 28-20 at the line and overcome the Nuggets’ 50.6 per cent to 47.5 per cent advantage in field-goal shooting.

James shot 11-for-14 at the line and joined with Davis in getting Nuggets big men Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap in foul trouble.

James also found time for nine rebounds and a game-high-tying eight assists.

Four other Lakers scored in double figures, with Caldwell-Pope going for 13, Dwight Howard 12 to complement a game-high 11 rebounds, Rondo 11 and Kyle Kuzma 10.

Denver’s Jerami Grant finished with 17 points, Jokic 16, Michael Porter Jr. 13 and a team-high eight rebounds and Morris 12.

The Lakers finished with a 12-6 advantage in offensive rebounds.

“It was the difference,” Murray said.

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