Jamal Murray scored 23 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, propelling the Denver Nuggets to a 108-103 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night for a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Nikola Jokic had his 13th playoff triple-double with 23 points, 17 rebounds and a dozen assists for the Nuggets, who have never been this close to reaching the NBA Finals in their history.
Game 3 is Saturday night at Crypto.com Arena, where LeBron James and the Lakers are 8-0 in the playoffs.
Murray missed 12 of his 17 shots through three quarters but found his touch in the fourth, going 6 for 7, including four 3-pointers and fueling a 15-1 run that gave Denver a 96-84 lead.
Just like in Game 1, the Lakers didn’t go down easily. They pulled to three points on Austin Reaves’ jumper before Murray sank two free throws with 12 seconds left and Bruce Brown stole the ball from James, then dribbled out the final 8 seconds.
The Nuggets improved to 41-8 at home, best in the NBA, including 8-0 in the playoffs.
James and Reaves both scored 22 for Los Angeles. Anthony Davis scored 18 after pouring in 40 in the opener and Rui Hachimra scored 21 points off the bench.
For much of the night, it appeared as though the Lakers would wrest home-court advantage from the Nuggets, who are the top seed for the first time in their history. The Lakers won the series openers at Memphis and Golden State to reach the conference championship.
The outstanding defense Hachimura played on Jokic in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss in Game 1 led many to believe coach Darvin Ham would start Hachimura to try to stymie the Nuggets’ star center from the start. But instead he came off the bench again.
And what a spark he provided, sinking all seven of his first-half shots for a game-high 17 points at the half. His 3-pointer and pull-up jumper sparked a 9-0 run to open the second quarter and put the Lakers in charge despite slow starts from James and Davis, each of whom were held to two points in the first quarter.
James’ breakaway dunk made it 68-57 midway through the third quarter, but the Nuggets got back into it with a 10-0 run and took their first lead since the first quarter when Murray’s 3 made it 84-83.
His step-back 3 at the 7-minute mark made it 87-83. Another 3 made it 99-87, and he sank seven of eight free throws in the final minute.