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We have a series: Five takeaways from Lakers’ Game 3 loss

Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray has the ball stripped away by Lakers guard Rajon Rondo.
Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray has the ball stripped away by Lakers guard Rajon Rondo during the second half on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Denver Nuggets were one missed last-second shot by the Lakers’ Anthony Davis from evening the Western Conference finals series on Sunday night.

The Nuggets finally got their first win over the Lakers, 114-106, in Game 3 on Tuesday at AdventHealth Arena. Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Let’s give Denver its due. The Nuggets’ place in the conference finals was overshadowed by the Clippers’ collapse in the final three games of its series. The autopsy of a favorite had to come first before celebration of a team coming of age could begin.

The time for the Nuggets’ party is now.

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This is a team that deserves its place in the conference finals, a group that’s an Anthony Davis “Mamba Shot” away from a 2-1 lead over the Lakers.

Nikola Jokic was pretty good Tuesday, Jamal Murray was great in the clutch and the Nuggets’ role players outplayed the Lakers’ supporting cast.

“We believe,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “… They blew us out in Game 1. Game 2 we gave away at the end. We had to right that wrong and try to get a game under our belt, which we did tonight. This gives us that much more confidence going into this series letting them know that we’re here, we’re in this for the long haul. We’re going to continue to fight and do whatever we can.”

Before we look at what went wrong for the Lakers, you have to realize that Denver probably won Game 3 more than the Lakers lost it.

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“Tonight, we took a L and we deserved it,” Rajon Rondo said.

2. Shooters shot themselves in the foot. Since the fourth quarter of Game 2, the Lakers have done exactly what the Nuggets want them to do — they’ve been a jump-shooting offense.

Any possession that ends with the Lakers trying to score from outside the paint feels like a win for Denver.

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“You know, when we settle too much, we play into their hands,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “When we’re attacking the paint, we’re getting great looks every time we’re touching the paint. We definitely have to be more aggressive.”

The Lakers were 6-for-26 shooting from three-point range Tuesday. The last time a playoff team won when shooting that poorly from deep was in 2011.

3. Time to light the bat signal? Dwight Howard continued to playfully taunt Jokic, telling him, “Batman coming for you, the Joker,” from the Lakers bench before he checked into the game.

Corny jokes aside, the Lakers should probably consider moving Howard into the starting lineup, something Vogel has said he’s considered.

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Howard had a one-step forward, one-step back kind of game Tuesday, the lowest moment coming when he got a technical foul for flinging the ball off the court after being called for a foul.

“Dwight’s used to playing starter minutes throughout his career,” Vogel said pregame. “I feel like we can get more from him. The fouls have been an issue. A couple of fouls weren’t fouls last game, but you know, we’ve just got to make sure he plays with that energy without fouling. If he does that, we can get more minutes for him.”

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Highlights from the Lakers’ 114-106 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 on Tuesday.

4. Time to get in the zone for the Lakers, who put together their fourth-quarter comeback on the defensive end by switching from man to a zone defense. It’s been comeback fuel for teams this postseason — Miami used it to steal Game 2 from Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

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During the best stretch of the night for the Lakers, they forced turnovers on six consecutive Denver possessions, getting the lead all the way down to three.

“I think it caused a little hesitation,” Rondo said. “It slowed down their pace a little bit, but like I said, we were able to get stops, got to the free-throw line in the fourth and we were able to get back and set our defense.”

5. Times reporter Tania Ganguli asked LeBron James about critics who say his activism against police brutality incites violence against police officers.

James answered the question, again speaking out against law enforcement who abuse power, before stating the obvious for those who need to hear it.

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“I do not condone violence towards anyone, police, black people, white people, anyone of color, anyone not of color, because that’s not going to ever make this world or America what we want it to be,” he said.

LeBron James answers forcefully about the two sheriffs deputies who were shot in Compton and the criticism leveled at him.


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