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Recap: Lakers lose to Denver Nuggets in Game 3, lead series 2-1

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Lakers forward LeBron James drives past Denver's Jerami Grant during the first quarter of Game 3.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis looks to make a pass while under pressure from Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant, left, and forward Michael Porter Jr. during Game 3 on Tuesday.
(Mark J. Terrill /Associated Press)

Lakers’ fourth-quarter rally falls short in a 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

Lakers’ fourth-quarter rally falls short in a 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

Lakers lead the series 2-1.

Nuggets make it a series by beating Lakers in Game 3

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic looks to make a pass after grabbing a rebound against Lakers guard Rajon Rondo during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Final: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106

Denver weathers the Lakers’ fourth-quarter run to get its first win of the best of-seven series in Game 3.

LeBron James led the game in scoring with 30 points in addition to 10 rebounds and 11 assists, his 16th career playoff triple-double. Anthony Davis added 27 points, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tacked on 12.

But it was the complete team performance from Denver that made the difference.

Jamal Murray finished with 28 points and 12 assists while Nikola Jokic had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Jerami Grant poured in 26 points. And Monte Morris scored 14 points on just seven shots off the bench.

Some telling team stats in this one:

—3pt FGs: Denver was 11-29; LA was 6-26

—Free throws: Denver 23-29, LA 14-22

—Rebounds: Denver 44, LA 25

Also some unusual individual stats from the Lakers’ top two players:

—Anthony Davis had only two rebounds, his second-lowest total of the entire season.

—LeBron James attempted only two free throws, tying his lowest total of this postseason.

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Lakers trail by nine points with 90 seconds left

Jamal Murray hits a tough three-pointer with Alex Caruso’s hand in his face, Rajon Rondo commits an offensive foul on the other end, and then Murray finds Paul Millsap for a dunk to cap off a potentially key Nuggets sequence.

It’s 108-99 Nuggets with 90 seconds to play.

Murray then knocks down another deep three-pointer with 45 seconds left to give Denver a 10-point lead, 111-101.

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Lakers trail by five points with 3:53 left

Nuggets forward Jerami Grant (9) and Jamal Murray react to a play during the Lakers' rally in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
Nuggets forward Jerami Grant (9) and Jamal Murray (27) react to a play during the Lakers’ rally in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Lakers star LeBron James now has his 16th career playoff triple-double.

But, after he missed a three-pointer, Nuggets forward Jerami Grant drives at the other end and draws a foul. After making the first free throw, the Lakers call timeout.

It’s 103-98 Nuggets with 3:53 remaining in regulation after Grant sinks the second free throw.

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Lakers using defense to claw back into game

Lakers forward Anthony Davis tries to block a shot by Nuggets forward Paul Millsap during the second half of Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

After switching to a zone defense, the Lakers force a couple turnovers and extend their fourth-quarter run to 14-2, trimming the Nuggets’ lead to single digits, 99-91.

The Nuggets call a timeout. They only have one left. It gets no better after the timeout for Denver.

Three more steals from the Lakers’ defense, including two by Rajon Rondo. Then, two more finishes as the rim for LeBron James plus a free throw from Kyle Kuzma. All of a sudden, it’s a one-possession game with Nuggets leading 99-96 Nuggets amid a staggering 19-2 Lakers run. Just under six minutes to play.

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Lakers fight back, cut deficit to 12 points

Lakers forward LeBron James blocks a shot by Nuggets forward Paul Millsap in the second half of Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Anthony Davis doesn’t have any rebounds, but he is helping the Lakers hang around with his scoring. After finishing in a transition on a give-and-go play with Kyle Kuzma, Davis has helped the Lakers cut Denver’s lead to 12.

It’s 99-87 Nuggets with 8:43 to play, but the Lakers have started the fourth quarter on a 12-6 run.

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Nuggets have too much offense right now

About that balanced Nuggets scoring …

That trio is up to 44 combined points. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who just threw down a transition dunk, also have 42 between themselves.

It’s 97-77 Nuggets with 10:36 to play.

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Lakers trail Nuggets by 18 points entering fourth quarter

Lakers forward Anthony Davis catches a pass while defended by Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

After falling behind by 20 points, their largest deficit of the entire postseason, the Lakers got a run-stopping jumper from Anthony Davis (giving him 20 points) and a layup through contact from Rajon Rondo.

The Lakers’ defense, however, couldn’t stop Nuggets forward Jerami Grant from slashing to the hoop for a layup at the other end, giving him a career playoff-high 20 points.

With 12 minutes to play, the Nuggets lead 93-75 after outscoring L.A. 30-22 in the third quarter.

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Nuggets open big lead late in third quarter

Nuggets forward Jerami Grant tries to drive between Lakers forward LeBron James and guard Danny Green during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Nuggets are getting balanced scoring. The Lakers are getting anything but.

Denver has four players with at least 14 points, including the game’s two highest scorers in Nikola Jokic (22 points) and Jerami Grant (19).

For L.A., only Anthony Davis (18), LeBron James (17) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) have more than five.

The result: an 89-71 Nuggets lead with under three minutes to play in the third quarter.

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LeBron James fuels Lakers rally

LeBron James scores on three straight possessions to keep the Lakers within striking distance of the Nuggets, who lead 74-65 midway through the third quarter.

James has a team-high 17 points on eight-of-12 shooting from the field. Also, he has nine assists and seven rebounds.

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Nuggets open 12-point lead in third quarter

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray pulls up for a jumper among a group of Lakers defenders during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

A lot of fouls early in the second half, with the Nuggets reaching the bonus less than three minutes into the third quarter.

Jerami Grant also has six straight points, forcing the Lakers to use a timeout. It’s 71-59 Nuggets.

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LeBron James fouled, flagrantly

Lakers forward LeBron James gathers himself on the the court after taking an elbow from Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LeBron James slow to get off the floor after taking a Jamal Murray elbow to the face.

Even after getting back to his feet, James was still in obvious discomfort — though he might have been trying to sell the foul somewhat too.

The referees did go to a video review and assessed Murray with a flagrant 1.

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Lakers quickly cut Nuggets’ lead to five points in third quarter

Lakers coach Frank Vogel started center Dwight Howard in the second half of Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

After closing the first half on a 16-8 run, the Lakers have scored the first five points in the third quarter to make it a five-point game, 63-58 Nuggets.

Denver has to call a timeout less than 90 seconds into the seocnd half after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s three-pointer and full-court transition layup after a steal.

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Lakers trail the Nuggets by 10 points at halftime

Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, knocks the ball from the control of Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

For the first time in seven games, the Nuggets lead at the half, 63-53 over the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

It is the Nuggets’ second-highest scoring first half of these playoffs, as they shot 56.4% from the field and made 13 of 15 free throws. They also stretched their edge in rebounds to 23-11.

After Anthony Davis (16 points) and LeBron James (10 points, plus nine assists and four rebounds), no other Laker has more than five points.

The Nuggets’ big two, on the other hand, have gotten help from their role players. Nikola Jokic, who made a shot-clock beating fadeway shot over Anthony Davis late in the second quarter, and Jamal Murray lead the team with 15 and 12 points, respectively. But Monte Morris also has 12 while Michael Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant each have nine.

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Anthony Davis leads Lakers rally

Lakers forward Anthony Davis makes a pass under pressure from Nuggets defenders during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Anthony Davis has scored the last nine Lakers points while L.A. and Denver trade buckets in the middle of the second quarter. Davis is up to a game-high 16 points on five-of-eight shooting, plus he’s made six free throws

Denver’s surprise leading scorer: Monte Morris, who has scored 12 points coming off the bench.

The Nuggets lead 55-41 with 3:21 to go before halftime.

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Nuggets open 18-point lead in second quarter

Nuggets coach Michael Malone greets his team during a timeout in the second quarter of Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Dwight Howard comes off the bench and gets in the middle of the action — for better and for worse.

After throwing down a lob from LeBron James, Howard was called for a technical foul. A few possessions later, however, he snagged an offensive rebound and drew a foul, then tried to pump up the Lakers bench.

Denver still in control on the scoreboard though, leading 50-32 with 5:26 remaining.

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Lakers trail by a dozen halfway through second quarter

Lakers coach Frank Vogel was some clarification on a call from referee Marc Davis during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers cut into the Denver lead a little, making it 44-32 with 7:11 left in the second quarter.

In addition to their hot hand from the field, the Nuggets are dominating on the glass. They have a 17-8 rebounding edge, including five offensive boards.

During the timeout, Lakers coach Frank Vogel is heard by on the TV broadcast telling his team: “They’re playing harder, they’re playing tougher … but it’s a long game.”

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Lakers trail by 15 points early in second quarter

Nuggets guard Gary Harris goes up for a shot ahead of Lakers guard Rajon Rondo during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Nuggets offense is on fire right now, forcing Lakers coach Frank Vogel to call another timeout. A 17-2 run early in the second quarter has made it 44-29 Denver, their largest lead in a game at any point in this series.

Jamal Murray now has eight points, Michael Porter Jr. has nine, and perhaps most importantly, 7-foot center Nikola Jokic hasn’t had to check in yet during the second quarter.

As a team, the Nuggets are now shooting 17 of 27 (63%) and five of 10 from deep.

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Getting defensive in Game 3

Lakers forward LeBron James, left, tries to maintain control of the ball in front of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.
Lakers forward LeBron James loses control of the ball on a drive against Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Key early development: The Nuggets’ defense has shown up so far tonight.

Denver already have four steals and has forced six Lakers turnovers, leading to 12 Nuggets points. L.A. only has four points off four Denver turnovers.

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Nuggets open nine-point lead early in second quarter

Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic battle for a loose ball during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Nikola Jokic opens the second quarter on the bench, but the Nuggets score seven straight points anyway.

The last five came from Michael Porter Jr. to make it 36-27 Nuggets.

Lakers call timeout. Tonight, it’s L.A. in the early hole.

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Lakers trail 29-27 at the end of first quarter

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray looks to pass to teammate Paul Millsap as Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during Game 3.
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray looks to pass to teammate Paul Millsap as Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during Game 3
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Nuggets just a little better in the first quarter:

Score: Nuggets 29, Lakers 27

FG%: Nuggets 60%, Lakers 55%

3-pointers: Nuggets 2/6, Lakers 2/7

Rebounds: Nuggets 10, Lakers 8

Turnovers: Nuggets 3, Lakers 4

Denver center Nikola Jokic leading all scorers with 11 points. Anthony Davis’ seven is the most for L.A.

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Nuggets move ahead by two points late in first quarter

Lakers forward LeBron James drives down the lane against Nuggets foward Jerami Grant during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

First Lakers subs: Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo enter for LeBron James and Danny Green.

First possession with them on the floor: Kuzma drives to the hoop for a layup.

The Lakers could use more from Kuzma. In the series’ first two games, he only scored 19 total point.

Nikola Jokic is shooting early and often tonight. He has started four of six from the field and has eight points, four rebounds and an assist.

It has helped fuel an 8-2 Nuggets run that gives them a 22-20 lead with 2:26 left in the 1st quarter.

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Nuggets rally to tie score before Lakers claim 14-12 lead

LeBron James' signature preparation before taking the court for Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

LeBron James is leading the way for the Lakers, who have a 14-12 lead midway through the first quarter.

James gathered an offensive rebound and fed Anthony Davis for a go-ahead dunk right before the first TV timeout.

Through six minutes, James already has six points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal.

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Lakers build quick 8-2 lead

Lakers forward Anthony Davis goes up for a shot against Nuggets forward Jerami Grant during Game 3.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Anthony Davis scores the first point of tonight’s game from the free-throw line.

After that, Danny Green drains a three-pointer and LeBron James makes a pair of buckets. Lakers out to an early 8-2 lead.

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Game 3 is underway; no changes to starting lineups

We are underway. No changes again in the Game 3 starting lineups.

Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee

Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic

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Just minutes away from Game 3 as teams gather in unity

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Getting close to Game 3 tipoff

We’re less than 20 minutes from the expected tipoff for Game 3 of the Western Conference final in Orlando, Fla.

The Lakers have taken the court for final preparations.

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The odds show Lakers a clear favorite to take 3-1 series lead

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LeBron working on his drives

Will LeBron James be in attack mode for the Lakers tonight in Game 3 against the Denver Nuggets?

Here’s a look at some pregame moves.

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Danny Green warms up the audience as well as the jumper

Lakers guard Danny Green was multitasking before Game 3. While going through shooting drills, he also was talking to TNT studio hosts.

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Will we see another AD trey?

Lakers reporter Broderick Turner is watching the Lakers warm up. And witnessing Anthony Davis practice his game-winning touch?

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Alex Caruso is an indispensable part of the Lakers

Lakers guard Alex Caruso celebrates during Game 2.
(Mark j. Terrill / Associated Press)

Alex Caruso sat inside an auxiliary room, an enclosed rectangle dubbed “the penalty box” by some NBA staffers. He had an ice pack on each knee, and as he looked at his phone he jokingly moped about missing the first bus back to the Lakers’ hotel.

Later Sunday night across the hall in a practice gymnasium, Anthony Davis would sit and answer questions about the biggest shot of his life, the open three-pointer from the wing that beat the buzzer and the Nuggets in one swish, giving the Lakers five chances to win two games on the way to the NBA Finals.

It easily could’ve been Caruso in that room, sitting in front of everyone while LeBron James hung out stage right, sending out tweets talking about how clutch you came up.
But Caruso’s shot late in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals was just a little short. Maybe a hair left.

That it didn’t go in? That doesn’t matter. That Caruso, in his first NBA season without any two-way caveats, played more hellacious defense and, when the moment called, he called for the ball and took it?

That’s what matters.

“To be honest,” James said, “when he makes shots, it’s extra credit.”

Long before the Lakers got to the bubble, it was clear how important Caruso had become.

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Lakers’ Game 2 win was missing a key element: Staples Center

Lakers forward Anthony Davis made the game-winning shot on Sunday night in Game 2.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There is only one regret LeBron James has about the way Sunday night’s game ended for the Lakers — that Anthony Davis’ game-winning shot didn’t happen at Staples Center.

James remembers what it was like to make one in a packed arena pulling for you. He had that moment in 2009 when his Cavaliers were down 1-0 to the Orlando Magic.

“To be completely honest, man, it was probably one of the greatest moments of my career up until that point,” James said. “I was still a young kid at the time, so big-time.”

James was 24 and the arena in Cleveland erupted around him.

“The one thing I wish AD had tonight with the shot that he made, I wish we were playing at Staples,” James said. “We miss our fans so much and I can imagine ... it probably would have blew the roof off Staples Center, AD hitting that shot with our crowd. I would have loved to have that moment. I know what it felt like for me when I was able to hit that shot that you mentioned against Orlando, Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, at the buzzer.”

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No silver linings for Nuggets, only more work to catch Lakers

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic shoots over Lakers center Dwight Howard during Game 2 on Sunday night.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone stared at the box score he clutched in his right hand, studying the tangible confirmation of how the Lakers had ripped out a piece of his team’s heart.

The Nuggets, who had erased 3-1 series deficits against the Utah Jazz and the Clippers in the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, were adding to their reputation for resilience on Sunday as they tried to pull even with the Lakers two games into the Western Conference finals. They led with 2.1 seconds left in the fourth quarter, fueled by a spree of 12 consecutive clutch points from Nikola Jokic, and were on the brink of something big.

They weren’t facing the Clippers, who had wilted under duress. They were seconds from subduing the Lakers, the No. 1 seed in the West, a team that historically thrives under pressure. It was a big moment for the emergent Nuggets. “We were this close from getting the win,” forward Michael Porter Jr. said, holding his fingers a hair’s breadth apart.

That tiny space was enough for the Lakers to bust through, taking advantage of a miscommunication among the Nuggets’ defenders to earn a 105-103 victory on Anthony Davis’ buzzer-beating three-point shot. And although losing by a small margin on the game’s final possession can be considered progress for the Nuggets after they were blown out in the series opener, coming close was no consolation to Malone.

“No, no silver linings. This is the Western Conference finals,” he said. “So, no moral victories, no silver linings.

“Losing sucks. I mean, that’s the bottom line. Losing sucks. Some guys like to win, some guys hate to lose. And I think we’re a group of guys that hate to lose. Whether it be by 20-something points in Game 1 or at the buzzer [on Sunday] it counts as the same. The only thing you can talk about is that we were in the game [on Sunday] and they had to rely on a great shot by a great player to beat us at the buzzer.”

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