NBA

LeBron James still sees path to Lakers victory despite 2-0 Nuggets lead

By Sports Desk May 19, 2023

LeBron James insists there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Los Angeles Lakers despite falling 2-0 down to the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers were beaten 108-103 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, even though they were leading by 11 points in the third quarter and started the fourth still up by three.

Jamal Murray powered a decisive 15-1 Denver run in the fourth quarter, finishing with 37 points, while Nikola Jokic (23-17-12) made it five triple-doubles in the space of six games.

James, meanwhile, was unable to connect with any of his six three-point attempts in a frustrating night that saw him finish with 22 points.

But the 38-year-old did have 10 assists, nine rebounds and four steals and feels there is enough room for optimism ahead of Game 3 on home court, where the Lakers have won every game this postseason.

"I think we improved from Game 1 to Game 2," James said, per ESPN. 

"And if we can do the same thing from Game 2 to Game 3, we put ourselves in a position to win.

"This is not the NCAA tournament. It's the first to four wins. Until a team beats you four times, then you always have an opportunity to come out of it. That is the confidence we need to have.

"We can't go into any postseason game with comfort just because you either haven't lost at home or you're going back home. We have still got to play with the same desperation as we did [in Game 2].

"We came out with an L. The three-point line is what killed us in the fourth.

"[Murray] made shots at the end of the clock. We guard for 24 seconds and he made two big-time shots, one over [Anthony Davis] and one over me. 

"He had his 3-point shot going in the fourth. It’s no surprise to me, he’s done it before. Sometimes it’s a never-miss league."

James said what he called "a little ankle injury" would not stop him suiting up for Game 3 on Saturday.

Austin Reaves tied James for a team-high 22 points and had no concerns about his star teammate’s shooting woes from deep.

"I mean, he can shoot all he wants – it's LeBron James," said Reaves. "I don't think anybody bats an eye when he shoots a shot or questions his shot. 

"We want him taking whatever he feels comfortable with, just because he's a winning basketball player for his whole career and that's all he wants to do, he wants to win."

Coach Darvin Ham had similar views on James' long-range shooting after Thursday's loss.

Ham said: "He [James] was open, they're playing off of him. He's a highly capable three-point shooter, he let it fly.

"Proud of our guys, they bounced back and we addressed a lot of the things that we said we were going to try to do better.

"Still got to be better in transition D. But overall the energy was there, the effort was there, the urgency was there, we just caught a bad stretch."

The Lakers have now lost consecutive games for the first time since the middle of March. After beating the odds to make the playoffs following a woeful start to the regular season, Ham was quick to remind observers the Lakers should not be counted out. 

"I've been down 2-10, 0-5," Ham said. "You're never as good as they say you are and you're never as bad as they say you are.

"You've just got to treat each day like its own entity. Each day, each game an opportunity to go out and get better. Never get too high and never get too low."

Davis also vowed to improve in Game 3. He had 14 rebounds and four blocks but was restricted to 18 points on 4-of-15 shooting after scoring 40 points in Game 1.

The eight-time All-Star said: "I'm going to continue to shoot those shots and I got to be better, more efficient, help the team win. So, I'll be better."

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