Nuggets @ Lakers Game 3
Now that all of us Laker fans have had some time to cool off and process that our season is slowly ending, let’s look back at game three of the western conference finals and how we got here.
Jamal Murray came out in game three the same way he ended game two. HOT (pause). Murray continued his awe inspiring shot-making clinic, jumping out with 17 points in the first quarter, deading any chance the Laker fans had to impact the game. Historically game three is the home team's best chance to right the ship considering the lopsided levels of desperation and energy from the home team and its supporters, not to mention a favorable whistle.The Denver Nuggets guard has been on a revenge tour since blowing out his knee a few seasons back. He is using this series, in particular, to let the world know he’s back to his all-star form. When asked what is so difficult about guarding Murray in the post-game presser, James answered that once Murray gets going, he’s “hard to stop.” Well, that’s an understatement. After comparing this series to the last against the Warriors, I think that when healthy, Jamal Murray has put more pressure on this Laker defense because, unlike the undersized Stephen Curry. Jamal can hit the midrange jumper at a high clip with a hand in his face. When a guard has it going like that, it’s near impossible to stop. Considering there is a two-time MVP, you have to keep an eye on each possession. Murray finished the first half with 30 points, and the Nuggets took a 3-point lead into the half.
Where is Dlo?
Now anyone who’s read this blog knows I attribute a lot of the team's second-half success this season to the acquisition of former Laker D’Angelo Russell and his ability to distribute the ball accordingly and hit timely threes. With that being said, I have to call a spade a spade . Dlo might have just played his way out of a bag. In the past three games, Russell has been atrocious. Finishing the game with 3 points and looking as timid as he did during his rookie year, D’Angelo has let the physical play and trash talk from the Nuggets forward Bruce Brown get him out of his game. Russell came out and seemed to be intentional on the offensive end three hitting a three early, but as the game got tight, you could see him defer and opt out of putting any pressure on the Nugget's guards. After missing two wide-open threes later in the game, Russell’s night was about over, never making a tangible impact on the game. Two things can be true. D’Angelo made a net positive impact on this team, but his ceiling is clear. He’s a fantastic regular season point guard providing scoring and passing and is fan-friendly, but when it gets tight, he shrinks. The Lakers have a big decision facing them this offseason. Who will be the point guard of the future? This brings me to the silver lining of this entire Laker season.
What can we say about the guy that hasn’t already been said? A true underdog story. We all know the mythology behind “Hilbilly Kobe.” Now I have to say I did see glimpses of “dog” in him early in his career—notably that game-winner against the Mavs last season. At that time, he was one of the few bright spots on this Laker roster outside AD and LBJ. I mean, hell, we made him the unofficial logo on the website https://goodworksworld.com/(check it out here), but I would be lying to you if I said I knew he would be this good. It was really in that Memphis series where he took his quantum leap. He was not only looking to draw fouls and depend on a pump fake up and under, but his bag was proliferating. His handles seemed to get better game by game as his confidence grew, and through last night has become the Laker's most consistent jump shooter. The Lakers have the option of matching whatever Brinks truck is thrown at Austin this offseason, and even if I need to chip in myself, the Lakers need to keep him at all costs. It’s not very often you find a true “hooper” in every sense of the word. From his work ethic to his post-game interviews, Reaves Carries himself in a way that would make the late great Kobe Bryant proud to share a nickname and a court with. A radical thought was thrown out that maybe the AR-15 could be the point guard of the future. Now this is an idea that is so crazy it could work. Reaves does not possess the quickness to guard the premier point guards in the league, but if challenged, I could see Austin improving his lateral speed. He already thinks the game is like a point guard who’s played for ten years. I have been so impressed with Austin’s shot-making ability and decision-making when the ball is in his hands. It got to the point where maybe the Lakers needed to run a Pick and Roll with AD and AR, with Lebron looking gassed and settling too much on the three-point shot.
The season is all but over. That’s ok. We had a good run. Guys, remember how things felt at the top of the year. The Lakers were dead in the water. LeBron was running his body into the ground to lose by 30 to our hometown rivals, The clippers. Losing to a two-time MVP, which should have been a three-time all-time center with a perfect supporting cast, is not something to hang your head about. Yes, I know the Laker lore. I was raised in it and molded by it: championship or bust. Times have changed. The League is way more competitive. It’s no longer the large market team getting the best players just because they can afford it.
You have different kinds of stars now—Guys like Joker and Durant, who I would consider eccentric. Ok, with flying under the radar. That’s a good thing. Let’s not look for scapegoats or call the coach to be fired. Fall into the madness of unrealistic expectations. We aren’t supposed to win every year. We should expect a team that competes and plays as a squad. We got that this year. We no longer had to check our phones to see how Russell Westbrook wasn’t feeling coming off the bench. We didn’t have to worry about Pat Beverly damaging one of our backboards with a three-point attempt. We got guys on the team we can look forward to watching for years to come. I am excited about the future of LakerNation, and so should you.
Or not; it’s fun to do all those things.