. Although the transformation of the Lakers in the second part of the season is one of the best stories of the year in the NBA, it seems that LeBron James and his teammates are running out of fuel in the Western Conference finals.
And finally they would have met an opponent capable of making sure that the history of Los Angeles does not have a happy ending.
After looking worn and error-prone in Denver, where they suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in two months, the Lakers are bound to win Game 3, scheduled for Saturday.
Los Angeles has been in a great moment that has extended since the trade deadline. They’ve gone 27-12 since then to sneak into the playoffs, winning a do-or-die play-in game and eliminating two top-seeded opponents in six games.
But that pace has been held back by Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and a respect-hungry Nuggets whose superiority in closing games is the reason they lead 2-0.
“This is not the NCAA tournament,” James said. “Whoever gets to four wins first will be the winner. We have a chance to go home and play some great basketball and stay in the fight. Until a team wins four times, there is always a chance to get out of trouble. That is the confidence you must have. I know it will be a tough mountain to climb, but we still have a chance to play better basketball in Game 3.”
The Lakers insist they aren’t as tired as they appeared at times in both games in Denver, when they settled for too many jumpers, ran the floor less effectively and lost some of their defensive intensity.
James and Anthony Davis agree that the fatigue of this two-month sprint to get into title contention wasn’t too much for a team that changed half its roster three months ago.
“Who’s not tired in the postseason? … I mean, everybody’s tired,” James said after Los Angeles’ 108-103 loss in Game 2.
But James’ wear and tear seems evident in his jump shots and his reliance on that shot rather than the more physically demanding task of driving to the rim. The scoring leader in NBA history went 0-for-6 on 3-pointers in Game 2, going 0-for-10 in the series. He also missed 19 consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter in the last 11 playoff games.