NBA playoffs

Still alive: Lakers end 11-game skid vs Nuggets, force Game 5


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Still alive: Lakers end 11-game skid vs Nuggets, force Game 5

STILL FIGHTING. Lakers star LeBron James shoots a fadeaway against Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon in Game 4.

Jason Parkhurst/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

LeBron James and the Lakers avoid getting swept by the Nuggets for the second straight year, while also snapping a losing skid against the defending champions since 2022

Anthony Davis had 25 points and 23 rebounds, and LeBron James added 30 points as the Los Angeles Lakers avoided elimination in a first-round Western Conference playoff series with a 119-108 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets on Saturday, April 27 (Sunday, April 28, Manila time).

D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves each scored 21 points as the Lakers avoided being swept by the Nuggets for the second straight year. They head back to Denver for Game 5 on Monday, April 29, with the Nuggets leading 3-1 in the series.

“We’ve had great stretches against this team, we’ve played good segments,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “We just never quite put together a complete game, whether it’s a whole quarter or stretches of seven or eight minutes where we dropped the ball. Tonight, we played until the end.”

Los Angeles shot 52.2% from the floor as it ended an 11-game losing streak to Denver. 

Russell was 8-of-15 shooting and 4-of-8 from three-point range after missing all seven of his shots from the floor in Game 3.

“I loved it,” Ham said of Russell’s performance. “I told him to go crazy. ‘Be confident. You have been doing this your whole life. Be confident and go crazy and be aggressive.’ He looked at me, and his nickname for me is ‘Big Dog’. He said, ‘I got you Big Dog. I got you.’ He shook my hand, gave me a hug and did what he did tonight.”

Nikola Jokic put together his second triple-double of the series with 33 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Michael Porter Jr. added 27 points and 11 rebounds as the Nuggets fell to the Lakers for the first time since December 2022.

Jamal Murray scored 22 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 14 in the loss. 

The Nuggets can clinch the series on their court after they tied for the best home record in the Western Conference during the regular season at 33-8.

Denver’s Aaron Gordon scored 7 points after scoring 29 in Game 3.

The Lakers got off to another strong start, taking a 28-33 lead after one quarter and holding a 61-48 advantage at halftime by shooting 57.4% from the floor over the first two quarters. 

“When you never hold the lead for the entire game and are fighting to get back into the game, when you finally force a miss, you can’t (let them) crash the glass and outwork us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “It doesn’t work like that.”

Los Angeles has held the lead at halftime in each of the first four games of the series.

The Nuggets pulled within 77-70 in the third quarter, but the Lakers responded and led 91-80 heading into the fourth.

Los Angeles put together an 11-3 run to take a 106-87 lead with 5:58 remaining after a three-pointer from Russell. 

James, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, gave the Lakers some breathing room after a fastbreak dunk for a 111-98 lead with 2:38 remaining.

“Obviously we have to sustain our effort and energy,” James said. “I thought the third quarter was very important. We’ve had a lead in a lot of these games and in the second half, they jumped on it. Even though they outscored us by two (in the third quarter), we scored with them. That helped us going into the fourth where the mindset is closing it out.” –

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