Lakers know they will have ‘to be better’
Denver has outplayed them for the last game and a half
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Denver Nuggets don’t sound like an underdog.
Jamal Murray believes they should be leading the Western Conference finals. They aren’t, though they say there is still a long way to go in the series.
If the Los Angeles Lakers don’t start playing better, the Nuggets might be right.
Outplayed for much of the last 1½ games, the top-seeded Lakers look to regain control of the series when the teams play Game 4 on Thursday night.
The Lakers were careless with the ball and not disciplined enough on defense in Game 2, when they needed Anthony Davis’ 3-pointer as time expired to avoid a loss. Instead of cutting down on their turnovers and fouls, Los Angeles repeated them in Game 3, helping the Nuggets build a big lead on their way to a 114-106 victory that cut the Lakers’ lead to 2-1.
“It’s not going to be winning ingredients for us if we continue to do that and we knew that. Even after Game 2, we talked about that,” LeBron James said. “Got to be better than that Game 4.” The Nuggets have been behind by two games in all three playoff series, so they were stung but not sunk when Davis denied them in Game 2. They came back and controlled much of Game
3 and responded with poise after their one faulty stretch, when the Lakers cut a 20-point deficit to three.
“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,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We’re going to continue to fight and do whatever we can.”
The Lakers easily recovered from their other two losses in the playoffs. They dropped Game 1 against Portland in the first round and won the next four. When they lost Game 1 again in the second round against Houston, they followed with six straight victories, so aren’t going to overreact to another defeat.
“We’re still up 2-1. We have control of the series,” Davis said. “We’ve just got to come out in Game 4 and play our style of basketball.”
But Davis acknowledged that his tworebound performance Tuesday was “unacceptable,” and he noted the team mistakes that the Lakers didn’t clean up from the previous game. Los Angeles had a 16-point lead early in the second half of Game 2 and could have coasted to a second straight easy victory, but had to scramble at the end after finishing with 24 turnovers and 30 fouls.
The Nuggets then scored 25 points in Game 3 off the Lakers’ turnovers — with James committing a game-high six of them in his 26th playoff triple-double.
“When you give up 25 points off 16 turnovers, that’s not good,” James said. “We did the same thing in Game 2. We had 24 turnovers and luckily it didn’t bite us in the butt, but it should have.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of that and it’s a conscious effort that not only starts with me because I’m the point guard of the team, and it trickles down to everyone else.”
If the Lakers win Thursday, they will be a victory away from their first NBA Finals appearance since their last championship in 2010, but won’t be able to get comfortable. The Nuggets overcame 3-1 deficits against both Utah and the Clippers in these playoffs, so they won’t be fazed by facing elimination.
HEAT 112, CELTICS 109: Tyler Herro carries a red spiral-bound notebook with him at all times, jotting down notes when things pop into his head. What worked, what didn’t, where he thinks he can get better and how he’s feeling after a game.
“It helps me get locked in, helps me focus,” Herro said.
Whatever he read Wednesday night helped him put together the game of his life — and get Miami a win away from the NBA Finals. The 20-year-old Herro scored a Heat rookie-record 37 points as Miami won Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals and took a 3-1 series lead.
“He has a great competitive humility about him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has a confidence. He has a fearlessness that is uncommon.”
Jimmy Butler scored 24 points, Goran Dragic added 22 and Bam Adebayo — dealing with a bit of shoulder soreness — had 20 points and 12 rebounds to help the Heat, who can close it out Friday.
Jayson Tatum scored all 28 of his points in the second half for the Celtics. They erased a double-digit deficit to take a one-point lead in the fourth — then saw the Heat run away again. Jaylen Brown scored 21 points, Kemba Walker added 20, Gordon Hayward had 14 and Marcus Smart finished with 10 points and 11 assists.
“I didn’t score in the first half. That’s unacceptable,” Tatum said. “I know I have to play better. That’s what I tried to do.”
Brown’s 3-pointer with 16 seconds left cut Miami’s lead to 107-104. Herro went to the line 2.1 seconds later and coolly swished a pair, stretching the lead back to five. The Celtics got within two points twice, Butler made a free throw with 1.1 seconds remaining, and Boston — out of timeouts — never got a desperation shot off.
“At the end of the day, we got to find a way,” Walker said. “That’s really all we can do. We can do it. It’s about pride. It’s about wanting to do it. Next game we got to come out and show that.”
Herro made 14 of 21 shots from the floor, 5 for 10 from 3-point range and became just the second 20-year-old in NBA playoff history to score at least 37 points in a game. The other: Magic Johnson, who had 42 in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Heat rookie playoff record was 27 by Dwyane Wade in 2004.
RACIAL INJUSTICE: LeBron James sent the word to the Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.
A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.
“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”
Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.
“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”
Jamal Murray, left, celebrates his 3-point basket on Tuesday night. He and his Denver teammates scored 25 points off of Laker turnovers in Tuesday’s 114-106 Nuggets win.