It has been a fairytale run for Denver Nuggets so far in this season’s playoffs. Denver Nuggets have been the ultimate underdogs against some of the stronger teams in the playoffs and have produced numerous memorable performances on their journey to the Western Conference finals. Denver Nuggets overcame Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, coming back from 3-1 down to win the series 4-3.
The Nuggets repeated the same feat against firm title favorites Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals to reach a historic Western Conference finals and set up a tough encounter against the Lakers.
Four games into their Western Conference finals series against the Lakers, Denver Nuggets find themselves in a familiar position. The Nuggets are 3-1 behind for a third consecutive series against Los Angeles Lakers and will need to win Game 5 to prolong their stay in the tie after losing 114-108 in Game 4. For Nuggets, being behind in another series is just another source of motivation for them to repeat the same trick from the previous rounds. However, they face an uphill task to achieving another comeback against a Lakers team that boasts of LeBron James and Anthony Davis on their roster. The Nuggets’ fairytale run might be a step closer to ending, but there is a possibility of another incredible comeback.
Ahead of the crucial encounter between the Nuggets and Lakers this weekend, we take a look at some of the questions surrounding the Nuggets team.
Can Jamal Murray continue his brilliant form in Game 5?
It has been an excellent playoff for Denver Nuggets’ young star Jamal Murray, whose heroics in the previous rounds against Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers propelled the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals. The 23-year old Point Guard Murray has carried his recent good form into the series against the Lakers and has shown his quality in all four games. He has also been a constant threat to the Lakers’ mean defense. In the recent two games of the series, Murray has scored 60 points, with 32 points coming in the Nuggets’ 114-108 loss in Game 4. Murray also finished Game 4 with eight assists.
In the Nuggets’ Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Murray is averaging 24.7 points on an impressive 52.1 percent shooting, with an incredible 41 percent from downtown. In all 17 playoff games Murray has played this season, he has averaged 26.6 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game in addition to 6.5 assists per game, and 1.0 steals per game. Murray’s numbers tell a tale of a player who has the potential to become one of the NBA’s top players in the next few years. At the moment, there is no doubt that Murray is the most important player on the Nuggets roster and will have to continue his excellent form in Game 5 to ensure the Nuggets stay in the playoffs.
Will the Denver Nuggets’ defense be able to stop the dominant Davis-James partnership in Game 5?
The LeBron James-Anthony Davis partnership has paid dividends for the Lakers on numerous occasions throughout the playoffs this season. In all four games, the Nuggets’ defense has struggled to nullify the threats from both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In Game 4, both James and Davis combined for an impressive 60 points. Anthony Davis finished the game with 34 points, while LeBron also scored 26 points plus nine rebounds and eight assists. Anthony Davis also hit his first seven shots from the field in Game 4. He was also the match-winner in Game 2. Davis now has a 95.2% shooting percentage in the fourth quarter of the Conference finals.
It is always a challenging task to keep both players quiet throughout a game, but the Nuggets’ defense will have to find a way of limiting both James and Davis from impacting the game. The Nuggets could also go into the match with optimism because they beat a Clippers with last season’s Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, in the Semifinals.
Can the Nuggets’ offense show consistency in Game 5?
Despite the strong performance from Jamal Murray in Game 4, the Nuggets’ offense failed to maintain consistency throughout the entire game. In the final 24 minutes of Game 4, the Nuggets struggled to put up strong offensive plays and managed a low 42.1 percent in the last two quarters in contrast to their impressive 59 percent shooting in the first half of the game. In all, the Nuggets also lost out 25-6 to the Lakers in terms of second-chance points.
Both Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap were responsible for committing five fouls. Jokić, in particular, struggled for consistency as he only managed 16 points and seven rebounds. He also recorded just 13 field goals in 36 minutes and was restricted by an impressive Dwight Howard, who returned to the starting lineup at the expense of Javale McGee.
Nuggets’ Head Coach Michael Malone will have to sort out these issues quickly to give his team a slim chance of causing another major upset.