It's now or never for the Denver Nuggets.
After Anthony Davis' buzzer-beating game-winner gave the Los Angeles Lakers a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals, Denver is in a must-win situation as no team in the history of the NBA has overcome a 3-0 deficit in the postseason.
TAKEAWAYS: AD's shot delivers Game 2 win
The Nuggets are no stranger to playing from behind but they now face a motivated Lakers team that is just six wins away from their ultimate goal of an NBA title.
Ahead of a crucial Game 3, we've got you covered with a few things to keep an eye on.
Can Denver swing the momentum?
They say they play best when facing adversity, but this Nuggets team hasn't faced a team like the Lakers this postseason.
Late in Game 2, it appeared that Denver had withstood the biggest blows LA had to give, coming back from being down by as many as 16 points to take the lead down the stretch. Energy from PJ Dozier was a catalyst in inspired play from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray among others, all of whom made big plays down the stretch, including Murray's big late block.
As we learned, however, it only takes 2.1 seconds for everything to change.
ANTHONY DAVIS. FOR THE WIN.- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 21, 2020
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/qolqy9DHMY
Davis' buzzer beater was a gut punch to the Nuggets, who weren't able to come away with a win despite clawing back as they always do. It's not time to question Denver's resolve, as it has responded to demoralizing blows time and time again this postseason but it will need to come out of the gate with intensity, leaving the Game 2 heartbreak behind.
In normal circumstances, this series would be shifting to the Mile High City, where the Nuggets have one of the league's most unique home court advantages. Instead, Denver and LA are back on the same floor that they played on in Game 2, save for a small shift in game presentation elements.
That being said, the Nuggets must focus on creating their own energy to build momentum in a game where they cannot afford to fall behind as big as they have in the past. This Lakers team isn't going to let up.
The Joker vs. AD
This series has given us the opportunity to watch the league's best two big men grace the floor.
While AD is typically plays the four and Jokic is Denver's five, the two have been matched up with one another for close to 50 possessions through the first two games of the Western Conference Finals.
|Jokic guarded by Davis||5:19||20.4||12||4-7||57.1||3|
|Davis guarded by Jokic||6:45||27.5||26||9-15||60.0||1|
It's more than fair to say that Davis has gotten the best of the matchup so far.
Jokic, however, seemed to have figured things out a bit towards the end of Game 2, as he scored the team's final 12 points, including the go-ahead tip in to put the Nuggets up by two points in the game's final seconds.
12 points in the fourth.- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) September 21, 2020
Nikola gave it his all last night. #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/06gSBB8Hnf
Jokic would finish with 30 points in the game, second to only Davis, who scored a game-high 31 points thanks to his game-winner at the buzzer.
Following the game, Davis told the Inside the NBA crew that it was a defensive lapse on his part that served as the motivation for his big shot "I let a great player get to his strength. Jokic got to his right hand, got in the paint, got a floater and I was upset. Didn't want to end the game like that and Rondo told me 'get it back.'"
This back-and-forth battle ultimately decided the outcome of Game 2 and could very well be the biggest deciding factor in Game 3.
A focused effort on limiting turnovers
Game 2 was a sloppy one on both ends.
LA (24) and Denver (21) combined to commit 45 turnovers in the game, with LeBron James committing a game-high six while the Lakers Rajon Rondo and the Nuggets Jamal Murray each turning it over five times.
The giveaways didn't prove to be too costly for either team as the Lakers 24 turnovers resulted in just 19 points from the Nuggets. Denver's 21 turnovers resulted in just 15 points from LA, two of which came on Alex Caruso's emphatic fast break finish.
Alex Caruso: He's built different.- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 21, 2020
(📺: TNT) pic.twitter.com/EtmC5Bozi6
For the Nuggets, however, the turnovers are a part of a bigger problem as they have now committed 37 turnovers through the first two games of the series against a Lakers team that strives in transition. For comparison, Denver averaged just 12.6 turnovers through the first two rounds of the postseason and 13.8 turnovers per game during the regular season.
Right now, the Nuggets' sloppy play is uncharacteristic, to say the least.
Credit to the Lakers' defence as the team has locked in to make things difficult for their opponent. You should expect to see Denver adjust and make a concerted effort on limiting turnovers in order to get back on track in a must-win situation.
The Nuggets season depends on it.
Denver and LA are back in action for Game 3 on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. on SN Network.
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