Lak­ers know they will have ‘to be bet­ter’

Den­ver has out­played them for the last game and a half

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - FROM JOUR­NAL WIRES

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.”

MARK J. TERRILL/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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