Nuggets 3-pointers: Anthony Davis shrinks, Jamal Murray rises up in Game 2

Initial observations from the Nuggets’ Game 2 comeback win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

1. Murray makes them when it matters. Jamal Murray started the night shooting 3 for 15 from the field, but a point guard with his confidence never stops trying. He flipped a switch in the second half after the Nuggets fell behind by 10, making his next seven shots. The biggest was a beginning-of-the-end knife when Denver needed it most. On a night when Michael Malone had used Nikola Jokic for heavy minutes, the two-time MVP was finally getting a breather early in the fourth quarter. The Lakers couldn’t buy a bucket during that stretch, but after the Nuggets had weathered most of the storm already, Murray drilled a step-back three over Anthony Davis to put Denver ahead 87-83. While Murray never relented, Davis disappeared. He shot 4 for 15 after a 40-point Game 1.

2. Rui ruins everything early. Look, no judgment here toward LeBron James for that flubbed fast break in the second quarter. In fact, that’s as relatable and as human as he’s ever been. But that once-in-a-career mishap was a bit emblematic of the first half of Game 2. Don’t dare trying anything in transition; basketball is a half-court game, gosh darn it. That’s how L.A. wanted it, but James and Davis still combined for 17 points on 5-for-15 shooting. So where did a 53-48 Lakers lead come from? Rui Hachimura, naturally. When he checked in the first time, all eyes were on whether he would guard Nikola Jokic. (He did, at first.) But his offense was not to be ignored. He shot a perfect 7 for 7 in the first half to lead all scorers with 17 points. He did it all — mid-range jumpers, 3-pointers, baseline drives for reverse layups.

3. Why so hesitant, Joker? After a 3-for-3 series opener Tuesday, Jokic was shooting 51.2% from 3-point range in the playoffs. That’s even more impressive considering how often he’s firing: 2.2 outside attempts per game in the regular season, and 3.6 attempts per playoff game. His trigger finger wavered suddenly Thursday. On a handful of occasions, the Lakers chose to sit back and dare Jokic to shoot when he had the ball on the perimeter. Usually if he didn’t commit to the shot immediately, the defender (often James, another matchup wrinkle) started to close out. Jokic’s first two 3-point attempts while the Nuggets fell behind were a heave at the end of the shot clock and a contested brick with James in his face after he had already shot-faked a more open look.

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