The Los Angeles Lakers came out in Game 4 with a concerted effort to stop Nikola Jokic and rebound the basketball. This effort by the Lakers generated a 114-108 victory and a 3-1 series lead.
Lakers’ fans should not get too excited, however, for this is a familiar place for the Denver Nuggets. Down 3-1 versus the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, the Nuggets used outstanding offense and high-energy defense in order to come back and win both series.
Showing their versatility, Frank Vogel made an adjustment to the starting line up once again for Game 4. This time, Dwight Howard got the start. His responsibility: rebound the basketball and keep Jokic in check. Job well done, Dwight. Jokic made the only shot he took in the first quarter. Thanks to foul trouble, Jokic was held to 16 points and 7 rebounds. Howard, on the other hand, scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. His energy helped push the Lakers to 12 offense rebounds and 25 second chance points. For the Nuggets, grab half of those rebounds, and the game is a different story.
One trouble the Lakers did have in Game 4 was trying to stop Jamal Murray. Fortunately for the Lakers, that has been a problem for the Jazz and the Clippers. The key for the Lakers, defensively, has been to shut down the Nuggets supporting cast. However, down the stretch, the Lakers played lock down defense unlike anything we have seen in this series. With 3:28 remaining in the 4th, Monte Morris hit a 7-foot floater and made the free throw to cut the Laker lead to just three, 105-102. The rest of the way, the Nuggets were only able to score from the foul line the final three minutes. In fact, LeBron James held Jamal Murray scoreless from the field the final 6 minutes…including two blocks on Murray drives to the basket.
Unlike Game 3, the Lakers played with a high intensity on defense and crashed the boards all night. Despite allowing the Nuggets to shoot 51% from the field, the Lakers took advantage of second chance opportunities to make sure that the Nuggets were not able to steal Game 4.
Game 5 takes place Saturday, September 26 at 9:00. If the Nuggets can keep the Lakers off the offensive glass, avoid costly turnovers, and continue to shoot like they have done all series, this series is far from over. Rest easy Nuggets’ fans, your team has been here before, knows what to do to come back from 3-1 down, and has the weapons to do so.