Lakers lose to Nuggets in Game 2 heartbreaker on Jamal Murray buzzer-beater

Jamal Murray shoots in front of Anthony Davis.
Denver guard Jamal Murray shoots in front of Lakers forward Anthony Davis at the final buzzer to lift the Nuggets to a 101-99 victory in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Monday night.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)
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One flick of the wrist, the Denver guard moving from left to right with the toughest defender on the court in pursuit.

One cushion of space between the two, the ball weightlessly rolling through the mile-high air with a truckload of consequence driving it down.

One swished jumper, all the good will and big plays and tireless execution gone, another chance wasted, another game the Lakers can’t have.


One final score, Jamal Murray’s winning shot over Anthony Davis giving Denver a stunning 101-99 victory to put the Lakers in a 2-0 series hole that seems way deeper than that.

After watching video of the Game 1 loss to Denver, coach Darvin Ham said the Lakers missed too many open shots and lacked urgency in transition.

April 21, 2024

And one more example of why, seemingly no matter what happens, games between the Lakers and the Nuggets will end the same way.

Monday was certainly more dramatic, Murray dribbling past Davis just enough to rise and fade toward his bench, the ball ripping through the net. The celebration swallowed Davis, trapped near the Nuggets bench, while Ball Arena bounced in celebration.

“Obviously, the only game that matters now is Game 3 and how we can get better,” LeBron James said, because what else is there to say? “How we can figure this team out. So Game 3 is where my mindset is.”

Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) celebrates with teammates after his winning shot.
Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) celebrates with teammates after his winning shot at the end of a 101-99 win over the Lakers in Game 2 on Monday.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

Murray’s shot capped a 20-point second-half comeback for the Nuggets, the defending champions again showing that they hit hardest and heaviest when it matters most, while the Lakers again cracked under the pressure that a multi-season losing streak to one team can produce.


“Yeah, it stings. Remember this feeling as we take it back home to L.A.,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We gotta give them that same feeling in Game 3. We can’t ... that needs to be the sole focus: the recovery process has to start now, us filling our cups back up. But Game 3, it’s all about Game 3 right now.”

To control Game 2 for as long as they did, the Lakers rode Davis — he missed just one of his first 15 shots. D’Angelo Russell torched the nets from deep. And defensively, they hounded Murray, they fought to keep Denver off the offensive glass, and they flew back in transition.

“I liked where we were at,” Russell said. “We did a lot of good things that gave us an opportunity to win all night.”

Two minutes into the third quarter, Austin Reaves’ three put the Lakers up 68-48, everything going right in a place where everything was about to go wrong.

LeBron James puts up a shot
Lakers star LeBron James puts up a shot against Denver Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson and center Nikola Jokic during the second half Monday.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

The comeback wasn’t sudden, less a tsunami than repeated waves crashing against the Lakers threatening to break them down.


“We’ve shown that we’re more than capable,” Davis said. “We have stretches where we just don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor. And those are the ones that cost us.”

A 10-0 Denver run had as much to do with the Lakers’ defense as it did with the Nuggets offense ripping through it.

Consecutive threes from James in the fourth quarter put the Lakers up eight with six minutes left before the levee gave way.

Jokic beat Davis to his spots in the post and hit his floaters. Murray, who couldn’t make a shot all game, couldn’t miss.

Denver scored on eight of its final nine possessions and hit its final seven field-goal attempts — and still, the Lakers had their chances, a wild final 90 seconds producing opportunities that slipped through their fingers.

After the game, the Lakers voiced their frustration, with the blown lead and with whistles that didn’t go their way.

James begged for a foul late that didn’t come. Russell appeared to be hit in the head by Michael Porter Jr. on a play that would later get overturned by the replay center.


Ham and Russell both criticized officials after the game and James fumed about his frequent target — the video replay center.

“I don’t understand what’s going on in the replay center, to be honest. ... D-Lo clearly gets hit in the face on a drive. What the f— do we have a replay center for if it’s going to go [like that]. It doesn’t make sense to me,” James said without prompting. “It makes no sense to me. It bothers me. ... And then I just saw what happened with the Sixers-Knicks game too. Like, what are we doing? ... It’s ... stupid.”

Stops down the stretch, though, eluded the Lakers as the Denver crunch-time offense broke them down once again.

The Nuggets’ only empty possession led to a James breakaway dunk with 1:23 left. Jokic then tried to fire a pass from midcourt into the post, where Aaron Gordon was being guarded by Reaves. Reaves nearly knocked the ball loose before Gordon grabbed it falling out of bounds, where he fired it to Porter for a 28-footer that tied the game.

Russell answered with a layup before Murray drew a touch foul on James for two free throws.

The Lakers face a big task in a first-round playoff series against the reigning champion Nuggets, starting with LeBron James’ health and the offense.

April 20, 2024

James and Murray would trade buckets again, before the Lakers had the ball with 30 seconds left and a chance to take the lead.


James extended his arm to create some space, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went sprawling to the court, leaving the NBA’s all-time leading scorer open with 16 seconds left.

“Had a wide-open look and it rimmed out. I mean, it rimmed in and rimmed out,” James said flatly.

What happened next will certainly be a part of the Lakers’ eulogy should they fail to come back against the Nuggets.

“Jamal Murray made a shot,” Davis said when asked to describe it.

Then, he dropped the microphone on the table and walked away, the Lakers heading back home bruised again after running into an obstacle they can’t break through.