Los Angeles Lakers Close in on the N.B.A. Finals

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was once nearing nighttime, and Jamal Murray concluded his postgame information convention by way of slowly emerging from his folding chair with the expression of any person who had spent 12 hours on an meeting line. He had football-size ice packs on his knees. As he lumbered towards the door and a ready bus out of doors, he set free a load groan.

Murray had finished the whole lot he conceivably may for the Denver Nuggets of their 114-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday evening, and you might have heard one thing like this prior to. Right through the N.B.A.’s restart at Walt Disney Global, no participant has been extra dynamic or entertaining or aggressive than Murray, a 23-year-old level guard who has emerged as a celebrity.

His theatrics will not be sufficient towards the Lakers, who’ve a three-games-to-one lead within the N.B.A.’s Western Convention finals prior to Recreation five on Saturday. All Murray did in Recreation four was once acquire 32 issues and eight assists whilst capturing 12 of 20 from the sphere. He was once so excellent, LeBron James defended him within the fourth quarter because the Lakers fought to maintain their lead.

“I knew it was once successful time, and Jamal had it going,” James stated. “The child is particular.”

The extent of issue for Murray’s photographs has a tendency to range from tricky to hazardous. He shoots from one foot. He shoots with the improper hand. He shoots falling down. He shoots whilst soaking up touch from huge human beings. He shoots with opposing elbows in his abdomen and arms in his face. He shoots by way of throwing the ball off the backboard from absurd angles, and he shoots by way of launching Three-pointers from Epcot Heart. However he helps to keep capturing, and he’ll want to shoot some extra if the Nuggets have any likelihood within the sequence.

“I did get fouled on a few,” he said. “We could see the replay clearly.”

In any case, and no matter what happens the rest of the way, no one will soon forget what Murray has done in the bubble. In 18 playoff games, he has averaged 26.9 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 51 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from 3-point range. He also owns one of the postseason’s most bizarre statistics. In Game 2, the Nuggets outscored the Lakers by 16 points in the 44 minutes when Murray was on the court. In the 4 minutes when he was on the bench, the Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 18 points — and won by 2.

Earlier this week, Nuggets Coach Michael Malone spoke of Murray’s rapid maturation. Malone recalled a conversation they shared not long after Denver bowed out of last season’s playoffs in the conference semifinals.

“Coach, you know what drives me crazy?” Malone recalled Murray asking him. “You say I’m inconsistent. What bothers me is that you’re right. I know I have to be more consistent.”

Murray made it his personal challenge, Malone said, to become a steadier player alongside Nikola Jokic, the team’s do-everything center. Murray also committed to improving as a defender.

“Last year, we knew what we were getting from Nikola,” Malone said. “But what kind of game would Jamal have? That’s no longer the case. We have two superstars in Nikola and Jamal, and a lot of young, talented players behind them.”

The Lakers, who are much older and more experienced, are winning this series with physical force, and Vogel seemed to broadcast how he wanted his players to attack Game 4 by sliding Dwight Howard into the starting lineup. Howard, a 34-year-old wrecking ball with limbs, had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone.

“Nobody touched him at all,” Malone said. “He did whatever he wanted.”

The Lakers do not play a particularly pleasing style of basketball. They run at the rim. They seek contact. But it is effective.

On Thursday, they shot 35 free throws and thoroughly outrebounded the Nuggets. Malone did not sound delighted with the officiating — he said he would work “the proper channels” to address his concerns with the league, in much the same way that Vogel had after Game 3 — but stressed that he was not using that as an excuse.

“This game had nothing to do with that,” he said before citing the Lakers’ work on the offensive glass. “It’s the 25 second-chance points. That was the reason we lost this game.”

As for Murray, Malone said his point guard was doing everything in his power to lift his team. After playing 44 minutes in Game 3, Murray played 45 minutes in Game 4.

“I’m running the poor kid into the ground,” Malone said. “When I take him out, things seem to go sideways in a hurry.”

Now, Murray is facing a fresh challenge, his most daunting one to date. Despite the ice packs and the groans and the enormous minutes he continues to supply, Murray said he was ready.

“Got a lot of gas left in the tank,” he said.


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